Criminal Justice News

Monday, June 25, 2012

Former San Mateo County Employees Charged with Stealing from Deceased Peoples’ Estates

SAN FRANCISCO—Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested two defendants this morning for stealing assets of deceased people whose estates they administered as public employees, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Stephanie Douglas, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in San Francisco. The charges were contained in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury yesterday and unsealed today after the arrest of Mandy Natchi Yagi, 54, of San Mateo, California, and Peter Wong, 43, of Daly City, California.

The indictment charges Yagi and Wong with conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and theft concerning a federally funded program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(A).

The San Mateo County government includes a Public Administrator who is responsible for investigating and administering the estates of county residents who die without a will or an appropriate person willing and able to act as the estate administrator. Yagi and Wong were employed as deputy public administrators until late 2011. Deputy public administrators are county employees who administer the estates under the Public Administrator’s jurisdiction. A deputy public administrator’s duties include protecting the decedent’s property from waste, loss, or theft; making appropriate burial arrangements; conducting investigations to discover the decedent’s assets; liquidating assets at public sale or distributing them to heirs; paying the decedent’s bills and taxes; locating people entitled to inherit from the estates; and ensuring that these people received their inheritances.

In their official capacities as deputy public administrators, Yagi and Wong had access to the assets—including cash, financial instruments, bank accounts, and valuable items such as jewelry—of the estates they administered. The indictment charges Yagi and Wong with using this access to take possession of estate assets for their personal benefit and for the benefit of persons other than the rightful owner.

The defendants made their initial appearances in federal court this morning before United States Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins and were ordered released subject to the posting of $100,000 unsecured bonds. They are next scheduled to appear before Judge Cousins on June 27 for identification of counsel.

The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program is five years. The maximum penalty for theft concerning a federally funded program is 10 years. Any sentence following conviction, however, would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Drew Caputo is the assistant United States attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rosario Calderon and Courtney Tellian. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, building on an initial investigation by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office has continued to assist the FBI in the investigation that resulted in this prosecution.

An indictment contains only allegations against an individual. As with all defendants, Yagi and Wong must be presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty. proven guilty.

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