Fresh court action possible in pyramid scheme case; perpetrator continues to say she won’t pay

The pyramid scheme case continues to grow, with victim Tionly Fatukala considering an attempt to recover more money from Mele Hea.

Hea, meanwhile has vowed that she will never pay back the $10,000 the Disputes Tribunal has ordered her to hand over to Fatukala, even if she had a $1 million.

After swearing on our Facebook account this morning , Hea said she and her family were under stress because of the publicity of her fraud.

She accused Kaniva News of malice and claimed Fatukala voluntarily deposited the money in her scam. Kaniva has seen a screenshot of a text message screenshot that was submitted to the Tribunal which shows Mele Hea texted Fatukala and asked her to deposit $8000, to which Fatukala agreed.

This was not, however, the main point of the Tribunal’s ruling, which was that Hea had been running a pyramid scheme, which is illegal under New Zealand law.

She accused Kaniva of using her photo with her daughter in an aeroplane without permission. The photograph was originally posted by Hea on her Facebook page and so has been placed in the public domain. She then accused Kaniva of failing to remove her daughter from the photo. In fact her daughter’s image was blurred by Kaniva News before it was published. 

Tionly Fatukala said she and her husband were working with their lawyer to file a new lawsuit against Mele Hea to pay back another $10,000 which was paid to her under the name of  Fatukala’s husband Josh. The Disputes Tribunal did not accept this claim at the original hearing.

The Tongan online community has criticised Mele Hea for running the pyramid scheme at a time when the community had been warned of the danger of such operations.

Some people criticised the victims and asked when they were going to learn not to spend such large amount of money on pyramid scheme. Some however, supported Mele Hea, saying she had used some of the money to pay some of her clients who were fortunate to profit from the operation. They criticised people who received large lump payments, but did not help the new customers. 

Editor’s note

Kaniva News’ role is to educate, inform and act as a watch dog for the community, guided by the law, ethics and skills of journalism. There has  been no malice or malevolence in our reporting. Our stories are not, as Hea has claimed, intended to stir up ill-feeling towards her or her family. We have simply covered a story that is of major concern to our community. The Disputes Tribunal found against Mele Hea and ordered her to pay back a sum of money to Fatukala. These are matters of public record, as is the fact that both sides have launched or are considering launching appeals that will continue the dispute into the New Year. Kaniva News will continue to cover the case as it develops.

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