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Two former San Mateo County employees were arrested by the FBI today on charges of stealing money and jewelry of deceased people whose estates they were administering. Former deputy public administrators Mandy Matchi Yagi, 54, of San Mateo, and Peter Wong, 43, of Daly City, were arrested this morning, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. The two were federally charged with conspiracy and theft in an indictment that was returned under seal by a U.S. grand jury in San Francisco on Thursday and unsealed after the arrests today.
Yagi and Wong worked until late last year for the county Public Administrator Program, which handles estates for people who die without a will or without an appropriate person to administer their estate. The program was placed under the jurisdiction of the San Mateo County Health System last July. The system said in a statement that “problems were discovered” after the takeover and law enforcement authorities were asked to investigate. “We took immediate steps once these matters came to light,” said Health System Chief Jean Fraser. “We are pleased that arrests have been made so that we can now begin working with heirs and beneficiaries who may have been impacted to ensure that all estates handled by Mr. Yagi and Ms. Wong can be thoroughly reviewed, and any mistakes or thefts corrected,” Fraser said.
Wong resigned from his job Nov. 15 and Yagi resigned Dec. 6, according to the indictment. Both are charged with one count of conspiring to commit theft from a federally funded program between 2009 and 2011. Both are also accused of one count of theft from a federal-funded program in November 2010 and Wong is additionally charged with another count of theft in May 2011. The indictment alleges that on Nov. 19, 2010, Yagi withdrew $5,000 in the form of a cashier’s check from the bank account of a deceased person whose estate she was administering.
The check was payable to a third person, who allegedly cashed the check three days later and gave half the proceeds to Wong, the indictment said. It alleges that in 2011, Yagi and Wong stored valuables and identification documents from 19 different estates in a box in a locked filing cabinet in the residence of a deceased person whose estate Wong was administering. It also charges Wong embezzled more than $5,000 worth of valuables from another estate in May 2011, and two months later deposited into his personal bank account a check for $5,513 from the sale of 14 jewelry and gold items from that estate.
Haag said Yagi and Wong both made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Nathaniel Cousins in San Francisco today and were released on $100,000 bonds. Cousins ordered them to return to his court on June 27 for identification of their defense lawyers. The conspiracy charge carries a possible maximum sentence of five years in prison and the theft charges are punishable by up to 10 years in prison upon conviction. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of any illegal proceeds. It does not explain how the program was federally funded, but it defines such a program for purposes of the charges as one that receives more than $10,000 per year in U.S. government grants, subsidies, loans, guarantees, insurance or other assistance.
Fraser said, “We are confident that all estates referred to the Public Administrator since the departure of Wong and Yagi have been handled appropriately. “After assuming responsibility for the program in July 2011, we instituted procedures and controls similar to those operating in our other programs; it was these controls, and our alert staff, that identified the
problems,” Fraser said.
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