American Samoa Department of Education Official Convicted by Federal Jury in District of Columbia of Witness Tampering and Obstruction of Justice
WASHINGTON – Paul Solofa, the director of the school lunch program for the government of the U.S. Territory of American Samoa, was convicted today in relation to his efforts to obstruct a federal grand jury and law enforcement investigation into a bribery scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
After a four-day trial, a federal jury in the District of Columbia found Solofa, 50, guilty of one count of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of justice.
According to evidence presented at trial, in approximately early 2008, federal authorities began conducting an investigation into allegations of cash 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 trial evidence, 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, allegedly told the vendor, “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 evidence presented at trial, Solofa met on April 14, 2009, with the same bus parts vendor, who told Solofa that a grand jury subpoena requiring production of specific documents and records, some of which related to Solofa and to the bus parts kickback scheme, would be issued shortly. After discussing how to respond, Solofa 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 penatly 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. Sentencing is scheduled for April 27, 2012.
This case is being prosecuted by Principal Deputy Chief Raymond N. Hulser and Trial Attorneys Timothy J. Kelly and Daniel A. Petalas of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI in Hawaii; 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.