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Wednesday, March 25, 2015
UPDATE: AG Charges Two Homeless Shelter Directors with Embezzment
By News Release @ 7:29 PM :: 8266 Views :: Ethics, Homelessness

SECOND DIRECTOR OF WAIANAE COMMUNITY OUTREACH CHARGED WITH DIVERTING MORE THAN $200,000 FOR PERSONAL USE

News Release from Hawaii Attorney General March 25, 2015

HONOLULU – Sophina Placencia, age 32, was arrested today for 5 felony theft counts for improperly diverting more than $200,000.00 in state funds from Waianae Community Outreach for use by herself, family members and friends, Attorney General Doug Chin announced.

“This set of charges against Ms. Placencia comes as a result of charges filed last week against former program director Laura Pitolo. Ms. Placencia was the executive director at the time she made allegations theft allegations against Ms. Pitolo. During the course of investigating Ms. Pitolo’s theft, special agents for the Attorney General determined that Ms. Placencia was also misusing state funds at Waianae Community Outreach,” said Deputy Attorney General Michael Kagami of the Criminal Justice Division. “The evidence uncovered against Ms. Placencia also indicates that she diverted a substantial amount of state funds for personal use.”

“This office will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals that violate the public trust. Individuals that receive State funds must be held accountable for the proper use of those funds,” said Chin. “These thefts directly impacted the services provided to our homeless individuals and families in the Waianae area.”

Ms. Placencia was charged with 4 counts of first degree theft, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000.00 fine, and 1 count of second degree theft, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000.00 fine. Ms. Placencia is presumed innocent unless and until she is found guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

# # #

FORMER DIRECTOR OF WAIANAE NON-PROFIT CHARGED WITH DIVERTING MORE THAN $500,000 FOR PERSONAL USE

News Release from Hawaii Attorney General's Office March 19, 2015

HONOLULU – Laura Pitolo, age 37, was charged yesterday with 6 felony theft counts for improperly diverting more than $500,000.00 in state funds from Waianae Community Outreach for use by herself, family members and friends, Attorney General Doug Chin announced.

“The charges against Ms. Pitolo are the result of over 7 months of investigation conducted by special agents for the Attorney General into the misuse of state funds at Waianae Community Outreach,” said Deputy Attorney General Michael Kagami of the Criminal Justice Division. “The evidence uncovered indicates Ms. Pitolo diverted a substantial amount of state funds for personal use.”

“Hawaii citizens trust that their hard-earned tax dollars will be used to make communities better and not help one person get rich,” said Chin. “The amount allegedly stolen here is extremely serious.”

Waianae Community Outreach received funding from the state of Hawaii to serve homeless individuals. Ms. Pitolo was the program director at the time the thefts occurred. Ms. Pitolo was charged with 5 counts of first degree theft, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000.00 fine, and 1 count of second degree theft, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000.00 fine. Ms. Pitolo is presumed innocent unless and until she is found guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

  *   *   *   *   *

Honolulu Prosecutor, HPD Fail to Pursue Case Against Embezzler

SA: ...The charges accuse Pitolo of stealing the money from Waianae Community Outreach and the state between March 2007 and July 2010. The state is listed as a victim because WCO receives state money to operate the transitional shelter.

The Attorney General's Office said Pitolo stole the money by writing unauthorized checks to herself and others and by making unauthorized ATM withdrawals and debit card transactions.

The organization sued Pitolo in 2013, alleging she stole $732,046 in operational and client trust funds.

Pitolo has failed to appear in all three court hearings on the lawsuit.

Former WCO Executive Director Sophina Placencia said the organization's board of directors fired Pitolo in May 2010 after she discovered Pitolo had stolen money. At that time, Placencia said, WCO was aware of the theft of just $69,000. She said she filed a police report two months later based on that amount.

In April 2013, WCO learned that police had not filed criminal charges against Pitolo and that the three-year statute of limitations was about to run out. So the organization filed the lawsuit against Pitolo....

To prosecute Pitolo, the Attorney General's Office is invoking a portion of the law that starts the three-year statute of limitations from the date the crime was discovered, if it involves fraud, deception or a breach of a fiduciary obligation....

read ... Woman charged in theft from homeless shelter

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