Ex-cargo handlers sentenced in theft of $130,000 from mail shipments

Casey Grove

An Anchorage man who stole $130,000 in cash from mail shipments entrusted to his employer, an air shipping company, will spend 18 months in prison, according to a sentence handed down last week.

A judge also ordered Star Matulino, a former ACE Air Cargo cargo handler, to pay restitution to the U.S. Postal Service, which had insured the shipments.

Matulino, 21, and two accomplices, fellow cargo handlers Iloilo Solomona and Vili Talivaa, pleaded guilty to the federal mail theft charges in December. Solomona, 24, and Talivaa each received sentences of five years' probation and were ordered to pay back $50,000 and $20,000, respectively.

An ACE manager said the company promptly fired all three men when it became aware of the mail theft allegations in 2012.

Matulino and Solomona also face felony theft charges in state court.

According to Matulino's plea agreement, he and Solomona took $30,000 in cash in March 2012 from a registered mail shipment bag sent by First National Bank of Alaska in Anchorage to the bank's Juneau branch. Solomona later admitted he and Matulino took another $20,000 from a shipment bound for Ketchikan that same month. That June, Matulino and Talivaa took $60,000 sent from Northrim Bank in Anchorage to the city of St. Paul, on an island in the Bering Sea, the plea agreement says. In another theft that June, Matulino, acting alone, stole $20,000 sent from Wells Fargo Bank in Anchorage to the village store in Sand Point, according to the plea agreement.

In Matulino's sentencing memorandum, his lawyer said the three cargo handlers would drink alcohol together at work.

"With his fears allayed by the assurances of his codefendants, who were older and longer-termed employees at ACE, Star became involved in the instant offense," the lawyer, Brian Heady, wrote in the memorandum. "He is extremely remorseful for his actions and believes that he has learned a difficult lesson."

"The thefts were unsophisticated and naive; Star walked by an open cookie jar, took the cookies, and ate them. In his simplistic way of thinking, he believed that if he ate the cookies, the evidence of their existence would disappear," Heady wrote.

Greg Hawthorne, ACE's director of cargo operations, said Wednesday that the company fired Matulino, Talivaa and Solomona after police told managers about the thefts.

"We do not tolerate any type of theft. Our company is very strict on that," said Hawthorne, who was not happy two of the men received only probation. "It's never good for a company to get a black eye like that, but we had to work through it."

"I wish they would've thrown the book at all three of them," he said.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.