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American Samoa school official pleads guilty to bribery charges

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The head of American Samoa’s School Bus Division pleaded guilty in federal court here yesterday to accepting about $300,000 in bribes over nearly four years and has agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of other government officials.

Gustav Nauer, 46, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit bribery involving a program that receives money from the U.S. government. The American Samoa Department of Education receives grants, contracts, subsidies and other forms of federal assistance annually.

One of Nauer’s alleged co-conspirators is facing federal witness tampering and obstruction of justice charges in Washington, D.C., involving a cooperating witness in the bribery case.

Authorities arrested Paul Solofa, 49, on Sept. 15. Solofa was director of the school lunch program when a federal grand jury indicted him Sept. 10 for the tampering and obstruction charges. He previously was the Education Department’s Business Division director and chief financial officer.

The government says Nauer, Solofa, the cooperating witness who owns a business that sells bus parts to the American Samoa government and others agreed to charge the government for "phantom" bus parts that were never delivered. The witness then returned most of the money to the others as bribes.

Nauer said in court yesterday he became involved in the scheme after a friend approached him about a way to make some quick money.

Federal prosecutor Kathryn Albrecht said Nauer received from the parts business owner, identified in court records as "Witness A," envelopes stuffed with $50 and $100 bills.

The government said Nauer received about 50 payments from January 2003 to October 2006.

 

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