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Julie Matau and daughter change plea in U'una'i embezzlement case

fili@samoanews.com

Federal prosecutors have reached a resolution in the government case against Julie Matau and her daughter Andrea with new pleas by the defendants to be entered during a change of plea hearing set for Dec. 21 at the federal court in Oakland, Calif., according to court documents filed last week.

The pair are accused of stealing some $150,000 in federal funds that were awarded to the now defunct U'una'i Legal Service Corporation and were scheduled to go on trial Jan. 9, 2012 with former acting boss David Wagner a key witness for the prosecution after he pled guilty last year to stealing $31,292 in federal grants for U'una'i.

A pre trial conference hearing was scheduled for Dec.21 but the government in a motion filed last Tuesday asked U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken to change the hearing from a pre trial hearing to a "change-of-plea" instead.

"Both defendants in this matter have negotiated resolutions of the charges against them and have executed plea agreements with the government," said federal prosecutors, whose request for a "change-of-plea" hearing was approved the following day by Wilken.

At this hearing, the defendants are expected to enter guilty pleas, with details to be released after the hearing. San Francisco based attorneys for the defendants didn't immediately respond to Samoa News questions last week seeking information about the change of plea, or why the defendants opted to plead guilty.

Supporting court documents filed by prosecutors last Wednesday state that between August 2005 and September 2007, Andrea Matau, who currently resides in California, worked as one of U'una'i's legal assistants.

During this period, she "did voluntarily, knowingly and intentionally embezzle, steal, purloin and convert for her own use" federal grants awarded to U'una'i, with no intention of repaying these funds, the government alleges.

Another set of government documents, filed by Trial Attorney Edward J. Loya Jr. of the U.S. Justice Department, alleges that Andrea Matau received about $24,634 in federal grant funds, all of which constituted payment in excess of her lawful salary.

Additionally, Julie Matau received $65,649 and Wagner got $31,292 in federal grant funds, all of which constituted payments in excess of lawful salaries. Moreover, another daughter of Julie Matau, a minor, received $16,288-- none of which was approved under the terms of the grant award.

Loya also said that Julie Matau's daughter-in-law (not identified by name in court documents) got $13,500 although not entitled to the money while Andrea Matau's then-husband (not identified by name) got $8,400 in federal grant funds under a bogus "lease agreement," when in fact Julie Matau owned and controlled the vehicle.

Loya said Andrea Matau knowingly and voluntarily participated in the theft of federal funds by receiving money to which she was not lawfully entitled and by permitting Julie Matau to deposit unlawful payments to Julie Matau in both Andrea Matau's personal bank account and Andrea and Julie's joint bank account.



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