The director of the school lunch program for the government of the U.S. Territory of American Samoa was convicted last week on charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice in relation to a bribery scheme investigated by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Education, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Hawaii, according to a news release distributed by the Department of Justice.
A D.C. federal jury found Paul Solofa guilty of one count of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of justice after a four-day trial.
Federal authorities began investigating allegations of cash bribes and kickbacks paid by vendors to American Samoa government officials in relation to the purchase of school bus parts and services, according to evidence presented at trial.
According to trial evidence, Solofa met with a school bus parts vendor in early 2009 who informed Solofa that the FBI planned to interview the vendor regarding the bus parts investigation. Solofa allegedly told the vendor in a recorded conversation, "They cannot do anything with cash. Nothing. They cannot do anything with cash. . . . So you know, but the best thing for you to do is ‘nope, I never give them any cash'. . . . All you do is just tell them ‘no, yes, no, yes."
Several days after the recorded conversation, Solofa again met with the bus parts vendor who informed Solofa that a grand jury subpoena would be issued requiring production of specific documents and records relating to the bus parts kickbacks scheme. Solofa told the vendor that, in regards to 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."
Sentencing is scheduled for late April. Solofa faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the witness tampering charge and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the obstruction of justice charge.