An Anchorage city commissioner and her husband have been charged with fraudulently obtaining more than $1.6 million in COVID-19 relief funds.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s office say 41-year-old Rosalina Mavaega and her husband, 44-year-old Esau Fualema Jr., misused money that was supposed to go to the nonprofit they founded, House of Transformations.
The money came from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The couple applied for a portion of Anchorage’s share of the funding in May 2021 — and got it.
Prosecutors say the couple falsely claimed their nonprofit would use the money to provide housing, treatment and training services. Instead, federal charges accuse them of depositing the funds into personal accounts to finance and pay off taxes on their businesses. They’re also accused of using the money to secure a cash loan and purchase cryptocurrency.
Mayor Dave Bronson named Maveaga to two city commissions in 2022. She was expelled from the Equal Rights Commission last week after several absences. She remained listed as a member Monday on the city’s housing and homelessness commission.
The charges follow an investigation by ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News that found Maveaga and her husband received one of the city’s largest COVID-19 relief grants in 2021 despite prior fraud allegations.
The couple applied for another grant for roughly $1.4 million dollars last year, but didn’t receive it.
Elizabeth Aumavae was director of House of Transformations when federal authorities began investigating Mavaega and Fualema, though she no longer is listed on the company’s website. Aumavae’s brother, Uluao “Junior” Aumavae, is Bronson’s chief equity officer. Bronson was elected in July 2021, after the funding was granted to the couple.
A federal grand jury has indicted Maveaga and Fualema on five felony charges, including fraud, money laundering and identity theft. The two appeared in court Friday. They pleaded not guilty.
If convicted, the couple faces a minimum sentence of two years in prison.