Home Cryptocurrency Anchorage City Commissioner Fraudulently Obtained $1.6M for Her Charity, Prosecutors Say — ProPublica

Anchorage City Commissioner Fraudulently Obtained $1.6M for Her Charity, Prosecutors Say — ProPublica

by Harry Garcia

Anchorage City Commissioner and Husband Charged with Fraudulently Obtaining $1.6 Million in COVID-19 Relief Funds

Rosalina Mavaega, a city commissioner in Anchorage, Alaska, and her husband, Esau Fualema Jr., have been charged with fraudulently obtaining $1.6 million in COVID-19 recovery money for their charity. The charges were filed in federal court in Anchorage and include major fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.

The couple is accused of using the money intended to help people find homes and addiction treatment for personal use, including buying cryptocurrency. The charges come after it was revealed in May that the Anchorage Assembly awarded the couple one of the city’s largest awards under the American Rescue Plan Act, despite prior fraud allegations.

Mavaega was arrested on September 19, and Fualema was also taken into custody. As of Thursday morning, Mavaega still held positions on the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission and the city housing and homelessness committee. The executive director of the Equal Rights Commission stated that Mavaega remains a commissioner, and the Mayor’s Office has so far not responded to questions regarding her status.

Mavaega and Fualema were previously barred from serving as Medicaid providers in 2015 due to violations, including submitting billing claims without adequate documentation and offering rebates for Medicaid referrals. Their business is no longer able to bill any federal healthcare program.

The charges against the couple relate to how they obtained the 2021 grant, how they used the money, and their alleged efforts to acquire additional grants from the city. It is alleged that they lied to federal, state, and city officials in order to meet the requirements to receive an ARPA grant. The charges state that they directed a grant writer to submit proposals that falsely described the operating expenses and officers and directors of their various charities.

A portion of the grant money was transferred to the couple’s personal checking account, which was then used as collateral for a personal loan. The loan was used to buy cryptocurrency and pay taxes owed by one of their businesses. Additionally, grant money was used to finance a for-profit beauty salon. They failed to use the money to make a down payment on properties that could be used for housing services, as promised in their grant agreement.

The couple has created several nonprofits and businesses in recent years, including House of Transformations, which was one of the biggest recipients of ARPA grant awards from the city. It received more funding than city agencies such as the fire and police departments.

The charges against Mavaega and Fualema highlight the need for increased scrutiny and accountability in the distribution of COVID-19 relief funds. It is crucial that funds intended to support those in need during these challenging times are not misused or fraudulently obtained. The investigation and prosecution of individuals who abuse public funds are essential to ensuring transparency and fairness in the distribution of relief funds.

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