Wagner sentenced for U’una’i theft

Prison time, home detention and full restitution

Former acting executive director of the U’unai Legal Service Corporation was sentenced yesterday at the federal court in St. Louis, Missouri to five (5) months in prison for his role in the theft of nearly $160,000 in federal grant funds from the now-defunct non-profit American Samoa legal services corporation, U’una’i.

David Wagner, 49, was also ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Carol E. Jackson to serve five months of home detention and three years of supervised release, according to the Justice Department and court records.

In addition, Jackson ordered the defendant to pay $31,292 in restitution, jointly and severally with co defendants Julie Matau and Andrea Matau, two other individuals who have been convicted and sentenced as part of this investigation.

Julie and daughter Andrea were sentenced last week at the federal court in Oakland, California with Julie getting 12 months and one day in prison while her daughter was sentenced to 12 months probation including six months of home detention. (see Samoa News story last Wednesday for details).

According to the court judgement, Jackson recommended that Wagner be placed in a federal detention as close as possible to St. Louis, which is where the defendant has been residing for the last few years.

Additionally, Wagner will be notified by the U.S. Marshal’s Office as to when he should report to a designated federal prison to serve the jail term. The court also set out several conditions for the supervised released, which includes the defendant not committing any crime, being subject to drug testing and participating in a substance abuse treatment program approved by the federal Probation Office.

Of the total restitution to be paid by Wagner, $18,571 goes to the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women and the remaining is to the federal Legal Service Corporation. (These are the two federal entities that provided funding for U’una’i.)

Wagner, who was acting U’una’i boss between 2005 and 2007, pled guilty in March 2010 to theft of federal funds for his role in the scheme.

Wagner's attorney, Mark Hammer, had recommended probation or a short period of home detention. Hammer didn’t immediately reply to Samoa News e-mail inquiries seeking comments on the case.

In his guilty plea, Wagner admitted that he signed blank U’una’i checks for Julie Matau’s use in exchange for unlawful payments that she provided to him. According to court documents, between September 2005 and September 2007, Wagner unlawfully received $31,292 in federal grant funds; Julie Matau unlawfully received $65,649 in federal grant funds; Andrea Matau unlawfully received $24,634 in federal grant funds; and other Matau relatives received $38,188 in federal grant funds.


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