Crime & Courts

Anchorage woman sentenced for passport, PFD fraud

A 43-year-old Anchorage woman has been sentenced in federal court to five years of probation for passport fraud. She used her false citizenship to obtain federal and state benefits including Permanent Fund dividends, according to the Alaska U.S. Attorney's Office.

Maualuga Leaana was indicted in April on multiple charges: passport fraud, nine counts of falsely claiming U.S. citizenship, and aggravated identity theft. She is a citizen of Samoa, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Bradley in a news release.

Leaana pleaded guilty to the passport charge in late July, admitting she applied for and obtained legal documents using her sister's name.

"She also admitted falsely claiming U.S. citizenship on various applications for benefits," including the multiple PFDs, unemployment and subsidized housing, according to the attorney's office.

In addition to probation, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess ordered Leaana to four months of house arrest. He also ordered that she pay restitution, $14,441 to the Alaska Permanent Fund and $17,392 to the state's Department of Labor.

In the prosecution's sentencing memorandum, Bradley recommended three months in prison followed by three years of probation, or a $20,000 fine.

"The defendant has no criminal record. She has worked. She has young children. She seems like a good citizen, but she is neither good nor a citizen," Bradley wrote. "She has lied for years … claiming benefits to which she was not entitled."

Bradley did not return calls for comment Monday evening but the sentencing memorandum states Leaana is a "deportable alien."

Multiple past co-workers -- from Hope Community Resources, Hallmark Aviation and First National Bank Alaska -- wrote letters of support for Leaana. They said she was a hard worker and a loving mother of two.