American Samoa Department of Education Official Arrested for Alleged Witness Tampering, Obstruction of Justice
WASHINGTON – Paul Solofa, the director of the school lunch program for the government of the U.S. Territory of American Samoa, has been arrested on charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
Solofa, 49, a resident of American Samoa, is charged in a two-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on Sept. 10, 2010, and unsealed today. The indictment charges Solofa with one count of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of justice. Solofa was arrested yesterday and is expected to make his initial appearance tomorrow before Magistrate Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.
According to the indictment, in approximately late 2007 and early 2008, federal authorities began conducting an investigation into allegations of bribes and kickbacks paid by vendors to officials of the American Samoa Government in connection with the government’s purchase of school bus parts and services.
According to the indictment, Solofa met on April 3, 2009, with a school bus parts vendor who told Solofa that the FBI was interested in interviewing the vendor regarding the bus parts investigation. Solofa, in a recorded meeting according to the indictment, allegedly told the vendor that, “They cannot do anything with cash. Nothing. They cannot do anything with cash. They cannot track down you on cash. Because even if you say you gave me cash I'll tell them ‘no.’ They cannot take your word on cash. Because that's hearsay. So you know, but the best thing for you to do is ‘nope, I never give them any cash, I never’ – because that will open up the whole operation . . . You get what I am saying. All you do is just tell them ‘no, yes, no, yes,’ period.”
In addition, according to the indictment, Solofa met on April 14, 2009, with the same bus parts vendor, who told Solofa that a grand jury subpoena compelling production of specific documents and records, some of which related to Solofa, would be issued shortly. After discussing how to respond, Solofa allegedly told the vendor that, as for documents he did not want to produce, “ [t]he only way to do it with those copies is burn it. That way, they won’t see it, and you won’t worry that they might see it, you know . . . Just burn it, and nobody has a copy.”
Solofa faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the witness tampering charge and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the obstruction of justice charge.
An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Timothy J. Kelly and Kathryn H. Albrecht of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI; the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Education; and the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior.