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Questions remain in Solofa case, as to who was charged and why

The U.S. Justice Department appellate court filings reveal that a fourth person was allegedly involved in the Department of Education school bus spare bus kick-back scheme, while the federal government remains silent on why former DOE official Paul Solofa was never charged with bribery, or whether he will ever be charged.


However, the appellate filing by prosecutor John-Alex Romano, asking the federal appellate court in Washington D.C. to affirm Solofa’s conviction and sentence didn’t identify the 4th person by name. It only states the person is the bus division supervision.


Besides Solofa, who was involved in the scheme, there was also Gustav Nauer, who is identified by the appeal’s motion as the bus division head mechanic, although Samoa News had reported in the past that he was the bus division supervisor based on local information and past federal court filings.


Nauer is currently serving time in jail for his role in the kick-back scheme while Oscar Mayer, who was also allegedly involved as general manager of Pacific Products — the local company that provided spare parts for school buses — was never charged.


According to the appellate motion, Romano says Mayer gave Nauer one, two, or three envelopes of cash during the scheme, devised by Solofa, where Mayer would charge DOE for school bus parts under inflated invoices and then kick money back to Solofa and other DOE officials.


After getting the envelopes — containing cash — from Mayer, Nauer first took the envelope(s) to Solofa, who removed and kept some of the cash.


“Nauer then delivered the remaining cash to his supervisor, who gave Nauer his cut,” said prosecutor but didn’t identify the supervisor by name. “It was Solofa — not Mayer, Nauer, or Nauer’s supervisor — who initiated the scheme, “ according to Romano.


After Solofa was transferred out of DOE’s business office in the later part of 2003, Nauer and his supervisor ceased giving Solofa a share of the cash payments.  Between Jan. 24, 2003, and Oct. 13, 2006, Mayer paid a total of $292,569.99 in cash to Nauer pursuant to the bus parts scheme. 


When Solofa later returned to working in the business office in the later part of 2006, he received a share of two or three kickbacks from the scheme, says the prosecutor, who revealed that the scheme  “came to an end” when  the Senate Select Investigative Committee at the time began investigating this issue.


Prosecutor’s filing, however, does not say why Solofa was never charged with accepting kick-backs and this has been a long standing question in the community since Solofa was first arrested around two years ago. (Solofa was convicted in January last year by a federal court jury in Washington D.C. for witness tampering and obstructing justice.


In his motion to the appellate court in Washington D.C., Solofa’s appellate attorney, Erik R. Zimmerman said the government didn’t prosecute his client for the kickbacks “perhaps because it would have been difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Solofa truly was involved in that scheme, or because such a prosecution would have been subject to the five-year statute of limitations” under federal law.


“...Solofa was punished for the full extent of the kickback scheme — even though he was never charged with participating in that scheme, and even though he was alleged to be, at most, a limited participant,” said Zimmerman.


Prosecutor only stated in the motion that Solofa was the “mastermind” behind the scheme and that the statute of limitations on Solofa’s involvement had not expired as of April 2009, when his conversation with Mayer was tape recorded, per orders of the FBI. (According to prosecution, Solofa believed the statute of limitations ended in 2006).


Prosecution was also silent on a statement by Solofa’s attorney that Mayer “signed a proffered agreement in which the government agreed not to use the information that Mayer provided to the government against him in a criminal prosecution.”


“Although the government could have prosecuted Mayer for numerous offenses based on his admitted involvement in the kickback scheme, it agreed not to do so if he testified against Solofa,” says Solofa’s attorney in his appellate motion.


It remains unclear as whether any charges will be filed against Mayer and the bus division “supervisor”.