Correction to Samoa News story on sentencing recommendation for Andrea Matau
U.S. prosecutors have claimed that Andrea Matau, the former legal assistant of the now closed U’una’i Legal Service Corporation (ULSC), defrauded the American Samoa Government in 2008 by filing false tax returns as well as writing checks towards a closed bank account.
Prosecutors’ revelation was made in filings with the federal court in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, in response to the defense’s sentencing recommendation of one-year probation with the special condition that she completes 100 hours of community service.
In its response to the defense, prosecution maintained its original recommendation of 12 months probation, to include six months in a halfway house and 400 hours of community service in a program designed to assist victims of domestic violence.
(Samoa News erroneously reported in its Tuesday edition, that prosecution now supported the defense’s recommendation. The information attributed to the prosecution in the story was incorrect; instead that information came from the defense. Samoa News apologizes to the U.S. Justice Department for the mistake.)
Prosecutors, in their reply to the defense recommendation, said that although the defendant was a minimal participant in this criminal activity, “the evidence does not support her assertion that she was a passive participant.”
According to the government, the defendant admitted that she participated in the stealing of federal funds by, among other things, personally receiving a total of about $24,634 in unlawful payments.
Prosecutors argued that the defendant is “a much more sophisticated and independent person than she is representing” to the court.
For example, prosecutors cited a statement from the defendant’s estranged husband, who told federal investigators that in 2008, Andrea Matau arranged for the couple to submit a fraudulent tax return to the American Samoa Government, in which they falsely claimed three children as their dependents in order to receive a tax refund.
According to prosecutors, the three children claimed by the couple belonged to a Filipino national, who was employed by her mother Julie Matau at U’una’i because the Filipino national had problems with his immigration status in the territory.
In connection with this fraudulent tax return, Andrea and her husband received tax reimbursement checks for $2,333 and $1,763, according to prosecutors, who also provided exhibits of the tax returns as evidence.
Additionally, Andrea Matau had also forged two checks drawn from the husband’s closed bank account— all of which occurred after the husband had informed the defendant that he had closed the bank account and specifically instructed her not to write any more checks from that account.
“These subsequent bad acts plainly demonstrate Andrea Matau’s ability and willingness to steal money,” said prosecutors. “They show that her involvement in the theft with her mother was no mistake or aberration—and certainly not the product of American Samoa culture.”
“If Andrea Matau was capable of engaging in these additional fraudulent acts after ULSC had shut down—and after the criminal investigation in this case had started—one can safely conclude that she was an active, full-fledged participant in the theft of federal funds from 2005 to 2007,” said prosecutors.
Andrea Matau was sentenced Tuesday afternoon to serve 12 months' probation, including six months of home detention. She was also ordered to provide eight hours a week of community service for the entire 12 months. (See yesterday’s edition for full details on sentencing for Andrea and her mother Julie)