News

Arrested employees worked in DA's office

Two former San Mateo County employees, recently arrested on charges of stealing from the estates of deceased people, actually worked in the office charged with prosecuting crimes -- the district attorney's office -- when the alleged crimes took place.

The employees' supervisor reported directly to the district attorney -- for much of the time to former DA Jim Fox and, since January 2011, to Steve Wagstaffe, the current DA.

The employees -- Mandy Natchi Yagi, 54, of San Mateo, and Peter Wong, 43, of Daly City -- worked in the Public Administrator division, part of the Coroner's Office in 1993 when it was taken over by the DA's office, Mr. Wagstaffe said.

The employees were responsible for overseeing the estates they are alleged to have stolen from. Public administrators administer estates of county residents who die without a will or an appropriate person willing and able to act as the estate administrator.

Both resigned their jobs in late 2011. Mr. Wong had been with the county since 2008, and Ms. Yagi since 2000, Mr. Wagstaffe said.

Mr. Fox took the initiative to shift responsibility for the Public Administrator division from the DA to the public health department in mid-2010; Mr. Wagstaffe completed the transfer in July 2011. The change was meant to "consolidate the public administrator's office with the public guardian's office for efficiency purposes," Mr. Wagstaffe said.

The arrests stemmed from a county investigation that began after the public health department took over.

After questioning, Ms. Yagi and Mr. Wong left their jobs "with very little notice," Mr. Wong in mid-November 2011 and Ms. Yagi in early December 2011, said health department spokesperson Robyn Thaw.

"It was after they left and other staff began handling some of the public administrator estates that we discovered further problems and referred the matter to the Sheriff's Office in December 2011," Ms. Thaw added.

The county contacted the California attorney general's office, which referred the case to the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco. The arrests were made by the FBI and federal prosecutors are prosecuting because "the alleged misdeeds occurred while the program was under the supervision of the District Attorney and therefore, they had a conflict in investigating their own employees," Ms. Thaw said.

A federal grand jury on June 22 indicted Ms. Yagi and Mr. Wong on charges of conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program and theft concerning a federally funded program, according to federal prosecutors.

Both defendants are out of custody on $100,000 bail.

Ms. Yagi and Mr. Wong had access to decedents' cash, stock certificates, bank accounts and valuable items such as jewelry, according to the federal prosecutors' statement.

During the county's investigation "... We discovered a box of items from many different estates in a place that only Wong and Yagi had access to. That they had items from many different estates in a box that was not under lock-and-key with the public administrator," Ms. Thaw said.

The department will be contacting heirs and beneficiaries to the estates, Ms. Thaw said, but would not speculate how many cases were mishandled nor on how long it might take to resolve the cases and what the monetary losses might be.

If convicted, the defendants could face maximum prison sentences of five years on the conspiracy charge and 10 years on the theft charge, prosecutors said.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lurker
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2012 at 7:13 am

If their supervisor reported "directly " to the DA's office, as this article states, then why did Wagstaffe tell a Mercury News reporter the following:

Web Link

Wagstaffe said the district attorney's office itself didn't have anything to do with the Public Administrator program, but he plans to investigate how the alleged crimes occurred.

________

Can the Almanac clear up his conflicting statements?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2012 at 10:30 am

This was predictable, the Board of Supervisors have been notified and warned for at least 10 years about the corruption at the highest level of the District Attorneys Office. I personally have been with three citizens who spoke about this subject to the board on this subject over the years.

Lurker, brings up an excellent point, and it is pretty simple to understand. Steve Wagstaffe didn't tell the truth to the reporter, The Supervisors couldn't care less.

Wagstaffe said the district attorney's office itself didn't have anything to do with the Public Administrator program,

A murder conviction case was reversed because of Mr. Wagstaffe's personal behavior, here is what one of three Judges said about him.

Hon. Judge Marsha Berzon " The prosecutor's (Steve Wagstaffe) asserted concern about objectivity was not an actual reason for his decision to strike (the juror), but was pretext,"

pretext
noun
a reason given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason....

Most of us ordinary citizens would consider pretext and lie to be the same.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by GOLLY
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm

That means a member or members on the Board of Supervisors could have been involved in nefarious doings.
This has long been the view or rumored officials who were in the "pockets" of big business and particularly of property brokers.
Some have moved on to even higher offices not expecting the collapse of Wall St.
One name along with some of his cronies (yes, a rumored male Supervisor)and his department employees who all looked the other way and are no longer visible like they were.
How can anyone in this day, not be a possible corrupt politico?
The IRS is not downsizing its investigators for the Silicon Valley and its environs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 11, 2012 at 7:19 pm

GOLLY = R Gordon

Mr Gordon:

why don't you just post under your usual nom de plume? We all know it's you.


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