SEPTEMBER 11, 2007
The lieutenant governor and a territorial senator of American Samoa have been federally charged with fraud, bribery and obstruction of justice for taking nearly one million federal dollars intended for schools.
American Samoa is an unincorporated U.S. territory in the South Pacific Ocean that doesnâ??t have a federal court but receives plenty of federal tax dollars for numerous programs, including schools. Prosecutors say that Lieutenant Governor Aitofele Sunia and Territorial Senator Tini Yuen illegally steered $775,000 in public school funds to companies they owned.
The corrupt Samoan officials created bogus paperwork to give the false appearance that a huge school project was instead dozens of small projects that each cost less than the $10,000 that requires competitive bidding. Then they bribed the two public officials in charge of enforcing procurement laws to approve the fraudulent scheme.
Those two officials, Samoaâ??s chief procurement officer and Education Department director, are already serving prison sentences for their role in the scheme that has cheated schools out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The procurement officer (Faâ??au Seumanutafa) is serving a 30-month sentence and was ordered to pay a $61,000 fine and the education director (Kerisano Sataua) was sent to jail for eight months and was fined $85,000. The lieutenant governor and senator face 20 years in prison and fines of up to half a million dollars.
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