The man once hired to raise money for the American West Heritage Foundation is expected to plead guilty to federal fraud charges in West Virginia next week, his lawyer said.
John Maestas resigned from his post at the Logan-based Festival of the American West last April, the day after he was indicted on 13 counts of submitting $150,000 in fraudulent invoices to the Department of Energy while a vice president at the College of West Virginia.The indictment was handed up the day after Maestas backed out of a plea arrangement with federal prosecutors, say he was not guilty.
Maestas had been hired by the foundation in January to raise money for a planned $5 million tourist attraction at Utah State University's Jensen Historical Farm, which is also the new home for the Festival of the American West.
The private, nonprofit group, which is affiliated with USU, recently began fund-raising efforts to expand the farm into a historical park in time for the 2002 Olympics.
Plans include adding an Indian village, a mountain man rendezvous, a military encampment and an Old West town.
Maestas was to lead efforts to raise the money for the park, which hosted the Festival of the American West for the first time this summer. A new $1 million visitors center, financed by the Utah Legislature, is under construction at the site.
The FBI opened an investigation into allegations of misuse of DOE grant money at the College of West Virginia in June 1996. Court documents allege Maestas and others were involved in a scheme to give money and other perks to an unnamed union official in violation of conflict-of-interest provisions.
The union official was in a position to provide contracts to the college that were paid for with U.S. Department of Energy funds, court documents allege. Those contracts amounted to more than $1.25 million over five years.
Lou Newberger, a Charleston-based federal public defender representing Maestas, said his client has agreed to plead guilty Monday to two of the 13 counts.