Ex-county employees charged with thefts from residents' estates | June 27, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - June 27, 2012

Ex-county employees charged with thefts from residents' estates

by Dave Boyce

The FBI has charged two former employees of San Mateo County with theft and conspiracy to commit theft in connection with their roles in overseeing the disposition of the assets of residents who die without wills or estate administrators.

An indictment by a federal grand jury and unsealed on Friday, June 22, charges Mandy Natchi Yagi, 54, of San Mateo, and Peter Wong, 43, of Daly City with conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program and theft concerning a federally funded program, according to a statement from U. S. Attorney Melinda Haag and Stephanie Douglas, who heads the FBI office in San Francisco.

Both defendants are out of custody on $100,000 bail after appearing in court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Their next court appearance is set for Wednesday, June 27, federal prosecutors said.

The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office began the investigation and assisted the FBI's investigation that led to this prosecution, prosecutors said.

As deputy public administrators, Ms. Yagi and Mr. Wong had the obligation to protect a decedent's property "from waste, loss or theft," prosecutors said. The role includes making funeral arrangements; investigating a decedent's assets and liquidating them, whether through a public sale or by distribution to heirs; paying the relevant taxes; and locating heirs and ensuring that they receive what is due them.

Ms. Yagi and Mr. Wong had access to decedents' cash, bank accounts and valuable items such as jewelry, the statement said. They used their access "to take possession of estate assets for their personal benefit and for the benefit of persons other than the rightful owner," prosecutors said.

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.


Posted by Hmmmmm, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2012 at 10:24 pm

This is poor journalism, which is surprising, since I have been accustomed to a high standard of reporting from the Almanac and this reporter.

If it is deemed newsworthy that the Portola Valley school board didn't have proper oversight over T. Hanretty, why is it not newsworthy that Stephen Wagstaffe, San Mateo District Attorney, didn't have proper oversight over these employees who embezzled trust funds?

At least in Portola Valley's caee, the fraud was hard to detect. This article also doesn't mention that the fraud of these two employees was detected almost immediately after a different department, health services, took over management of them from Wagstaffe. As in days.

It's more newsworthy to report on this flagrant lapse in judgment and management by Stephen Wagstaffe, who continues to serve in San Mateo County at a high level, than some petty thefts by these two employees.

Posted by registered user, Dave Boyce, a resident of Almanac staff writer
on Jun 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm

This original story, written on a tight deadline, has been updated and is on the home page.

Web Link

Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Thanks for the update, Dave.

From the Mercury News:

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."

Huh? The DA's office oversaw the program! It's hard to know whether no one was minding the store over at the DA's office, or whether they were, and failed to catch the crimes.

Wagstaffe's office should have been investigating the crimes AS they occurred, not investigating HOW they had occurred after the fact.

And now Wagstaffe is hiding out from reporters.
As he has done in the past, when Wagstaffe cannot control the media narrative on an issuethat makes him look bad, he hides like a baby from the press.