US couple accused of fraud, keeping man in Samoa to steal more money

A Utah couple Misiona Patane, 57, and Lavinia Patane, 54, of Lehi, have been charged in U.S. District Court for their alleged role in defrauding one set of victims out of USD$1.25 million.

They have also been charged with a related scheme to defraud a vulnerable adult out of USD$2.4 million according to a Department of Justice statement.

In an indictment issued by a federal grand jury, Misiona and Lavinia are charged with two counts of bank fraud and three counts of money laundering, while Misiona is separately charged with four counts of wire fraud, six counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of kidnapping.

The kidnapping charge is based upon Misiona’s alleged role in keeping a vulnerable adult in Samoa for more than a year under false pretenses so Patane could fraudulently obtain more funds from a trust meant for the benefit and care of the adult.

The allegations contained in the indictment state that, in 2011, Misiona became the director of a foundation started by a former professional athlete, known as “P.S.”

 The foundation was dedicated to assisting individuals in and from Samoa. It is alleged that, later in 2011, Misiona Patane’s wife, Lavinia Patane, became an officer of the foundation.

Over the course of several years, Lavinia Patane wrote numerous checks, made deposits, and made cash withdrawals from the foundation without the knowledge of or permission from P.S.

The indictment alleges that between 2015 and 2017, the Patanes diverted USD$1.25 million in tax refunds belonging to P.S. and his wife, and used the money for their own personal use. 

In carrying out the second scheme, the indictment alleges that the Patanes stole over USD$2.4 million from a court-monitored trust which existed for the benefit of a 26-year-old victim known as “J.F.”, who suffers from a permanent traumatic brain injury which occurred in an automobile accident when J.F. was 20 months old. It is alleged that under the terms of the court-monitored conservatorship, two family members were appointed as co-guardians to manage the financial and daily affairs of “J.F.” and that the co-guardians could authorize expenditures of funds from the J.F. Trust. It is alleged that from 2016 to 2018, the Patanes stole USD$2.4 million dollars from the J.F. Trust, under the guise of helping to provide services and pay for expenses related to J.F.’s care; the Patanes used these stolen funds for their own personal expenses. It is further alleged that Misiona Patane devised a plan to have J.F. participate in a residential program in Samoa, and that Misiona, acting as himself and pretending to be third parties, sent numerous emails and fraudulent documents to J.F.’s guardians and financial advisor to fraudulently obtain money from J.F.’s trust. In addition, it is alleged that Misiona Patane, for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining more money from the trust, falsely stated that “J.F.” was required to stay in Samoa pursuant to a court order and that J.F. would be subject to arrest or imprisonment should J.F. attempt to leave Samoa and travel to the U.S. 

Misiona Patane is currently being held in custody pending trial after a finding by a federal magistrate that Misiona Patane is a danger to the community and a risk of flight.  Some of the allegations in the indictment occurred while Patane was serving a federal probationary sentence for a previous federal conviction for fraud. 

Any individual who believes they may be a victim of fraud by the defendants is encouraged to contact United States Attorney’s Office Victim Coordinator at 801-325-1430.

Assistant United States Attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah are prosecuting the case against the Patanes. Special Agents from IRS Criminal Investigation are conducting the investigation.