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Jail time, full restitution called for in Matau case

Cites greed and selfishness by Julie, important role in theft by daughter, Andrea
fili@samoanews.com

Federal prosecutors have filed with the federal court in Oakland, Calif., its sentencing recommendation for Julie Matau, former grant administrator of the now closed U’una’i Legal Service Corporation, and her daughter Andrea Matau, the office’s former legal assistant.

Last December, Julie Matau, 49, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and Andrea Matau, 28, pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of theft of federal funds.

Both defendants have been living in San Francisco and the pair is scheduled for sentencing Mar. 27 before U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken.

The mother-daughter pair pled guilty to stealing more than $150,000 in federal grant funds awarded to U’una’i. The third party in this case, David Wagner, who was the former U’una’i acting boss, pled guilty on March 11, 2011 and will be sentenced next month at the federal court in in the Eastern District of Missouri.

On Monday this week, federal prosecutors filed sentencing recommendation for the defendants who have been out on bond since they were first charged in mid 2010.

JULIE MATAU

According to the government’s sentencing recommendation statement, Julie “orchestrated an unlawful, years-long scheme, whereby she, David Wagner, Andrea Matau, and Julie's relatives stole nearly $160,000 in U.S. taxpayer dollars from the only nonprofit legal services organization operating in American Samoa.”

“More than $128,000 of this stolen money went directly to Julie and her family members — instead of the low-income victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse for whom the money was sent,” said prosecutors. “As a result of Julie Matau’s greed and selfishness, this nonprofit organization lost its sources of federal funding and some of American Samoa’s most vulnerable persons were left without legal representation to pursue their claims.”

IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY

Shortly after the allegations of theft surfaced in August 2007, U’una’i’s funding stopped, the organization’s employees were fired and U’una’i abruptly shutdown, said prosecutors, who added that as a result, U’una’i’s clients — many of whom were coping with the devastating effects of domestic violence abuse — faced another serious problem: the loss of legal representation and their ability to protect their interest in local court.

Prosecutors also pointed out that the criminal conduct in this case not only resulted in the theft of some $160,000 in U.S. taxpayer dollars, “but also caused a breach of trust between members of the American Samoa community and the local authorities who have sought to help them.”

“Julie’s selfish acts significantly impeded the fight for social justice in American Samoa. To this day, American Samoa does not have a single non-profit organization dedicated to providing free legal services to disadvantaged individuals, and undoubtedly many serious wrongs are not being addressed in the local court system,” prosecutors note.

SENTENCING RECOMMENDATION

Prosecutors contend that Julie played a leading role in the theft of federal funds at U’una’i over the course of three years and that she was in a position of power to maintain control over U’una’i grant funds.

“She not only arranged for herself to receive approximately $65,649 in unlawful payments, but also directly approximately $62,822 to go to Andrea Matau, Julie’s younger daughter, Julie’s daughter-in-law, and Julie’s son-in-law — all persons over whom Julie Matau exercised significant authority,” prosecutors further argued.

“Julie Matau used these much needed U.S. tax payer dollars to benefit herself and her family at the expense of low-income persons in American Samoa, where the 2010 GDP per capita was $3,791,” said prosecutors, who cited information from the U.S. State Department.

Prosecutors also cited provisions of a report by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration titled “Demographic Baseline Report of the U.S. Territories and Countries Adjacent to Corral Reef Habitats”, which indicates that in the year 2000 the median household income in American Samoa was approximately $17,018 and that 61% of the population had income below the poverty line.”

“In light of Julie Matau’s egregious abuse of position of private trust, the unfortunate impact that her unlawful conduct has had on the people of American Samoa… and the need to deter other public and private officials in American Samoa who may be tempted to abuse their positions for personal gain, the court should sentence Julie Matau to 30 months imprisonment,” prosecutors said.

Additionally, she should also be ordered to pay $159,753 in restitution, which represents the total amount of stolen federal funds, prosecutors recommend.

ANDREA MATAU

According to the government, Andrea participated in this theft of federal money by, among other things, personally receiving $24,634 in unlawful payments; helping to arrange for her husband to receive about $8,400 in unlawful payments; and permitting Julie to deposit unlawful payments in Andrea’s personal bank account and in Andrea and Julie’s joint bank account.

Although Andrea “played a minimal role in the underlying criminal conduct,” prosecutors argued that “Andrea nevertheless played an important role in the theft of federal funds”. The government said Andrea personally benefitted from the receipt of the stolen funds; and she contributed to the closure of a unique and important community-based program.

For her role in this case, prosecutors recommended that Andrea serve a term of 12 months probation, to include 6 months in a halfway house and 400 hours of community service in a program designed to assist victims of domestic violence.

Additionally, the court should order Andrea to pay $159,763 in restitution.



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