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Matau mother and daughter plead guilty to stealing

fili@samoanews.com

The U.S. Justice Department filed a motion last week stating it had reached a resolution in the Matau mother and daughter case, with plea agreements being executed.

The Matau pair were scheduled to appear Wednesday (Dec. 21) for a status hearing in the case, with trial set for Jan. 9., 2012. Instead, they pled guilty on Wednesday, at the federal court in Oakland, Calif., to wire fraud and theft of federal funds awarded to the now closed U’una’i Legal Service Corporation.

They were originally charged in a 20-count indictment handed down Dec. 16, 2010, by the federal government.

During their plea hearing on Wednesday, Julie Matau, 49, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and admitted in her plea agreement, she knew that she and others had no legal entitlement to receive federal grant funds and their receipt of the funds violated the terms and conditions of the grants.  She also admitted she had no intention of repaying the money to U’una’i or the federal government, or of requiring others to repay the money.

Her daughter, Andrea Matau, 28, pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of theft of federal funds. In her plea agreement, she admitted she participated in the theft by receiving money to which she was not lawfully entitled and by permitting Julie Matau to deposit her unlawful payments in Andrea’s personal bank account and their joint bank accounts.

Between 2005 and 2007, Julie Matau served as grant administrator while Andrea Matau worked as a U’una’i legal assistant.

According to prosecutors, Julie Matau and Wagner arranged for themselves, Andrea Matau, and relatives of Julie and Andrea Matau to receive federal grant funds to which they were not legally entitled.

Julie Matau unlawfully received $65,649 in federal grant funds; Andrea Matau unlawfully received $24,634 in federal grant funds; Wagner unlawfully received $31,292 in federal grant funds; and the Mataus' relatives received $38,188, according to court documents.

The charge of wire fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum fine of $250,000. The misdemeanor charge of theft of federal funds carries a maximum prison sentence of one year and a maximum fine of $100,000.  The pair, who have been residing in San Francisco since late 2007, will be sentenced Mar. 27, 2012.

Court documents filed by Justice Department attorney Edward J. Loya Jr. state that another daughter of Julie Matau, a minor, received $16,288; Julie Matau's daughter-in-law (not identified by name in court documents) got $13,500 while Andrea Matau’s  then-husband (not identified by name) got $8,400 in federal grant funds under a bogus car “lease agreement,” when in fact Julie Matau owned and controlled the vehicle.

David Wagner, the former acting head for U’una’i, was to be the government's key witness in the trial, after he pled guilty last year to stealing $31,292 in federal grants, awarded to the non-profit organization. Wagner’s sentencing has been postponed several times until the case against the Mataus was resolved.



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