Credit Union Employees Steal $500K in Hawaii
Three former employees of the Oahu Transit Services Employees Federal Credit Union were recently charged with embezzling almost $500,000 over numerous years. However, the Honolulu FBI said the alleged thefts appear to be unrelated.
The NCUA first detected the alleged crimes during a 2012 audit at the $12.5 million, 2,000-member cooperative based in Honolulu, according to court records.
Following a FBI investigation, former manager/CEO Dona Takushi, loan officer Nicole Cheung and teller Jenny Nishida were slapped with fraud charges last week.
They are accused of making hundreds of false entries in the credit union’s books to cover loans for themselves, family and friends, according to court documents.
The women appear to have doctored the books in similar ways, but investigators concluded the co-workers did not collaborate on the schemes or know the others were stealing, said Tom Simon, a FBI special agent.
“I know it’s hard to believe that there were only four employees at the credit union and three of them were embezzling, apparently without realizing that their co-workers were doing the same thing,” Simon said in a recent interview.
“They paid down balances by making false entries into the credit union’s system to create the illusion that they had made actual payments on their credit cards,” he added. “The audit and the FBI review show that the Visa charges in question being made by the defendants were just used for general household items, nothing particularly extravagant.”
Gloria Omandam, the new CEO/manager of OTS Employees FCU, told CU Times the tiny credit union remains financially stable, despite the challenges of being involved in an NCUA audit, FBI investigation and alleged embezzlement.
Omandam, was previously a member relations officer at the Hawaii Credit Union League.
“The credit union has conducted an extensive independent audit to assure its safety and soundness. No member suffered a loss and any loss suffered by the credit union has been recouped, other than investigative costs,” the credit union said in a statement provided by Omandam.
Takushi, the former manager, is facing 90 years in prison for two counts of embezzlement and one count of false entries, according to the FBI.
She allegedly processed more than $40,000 in fake Visa payments for herself and a family member between December 2010 and September 2012, said the court documents.
The FBI said Takushi also made 153 false entries to hide delinquencies on loans for herself and others during the same time period.
She is also charged with falsifying records to steal a 2008 Subaru Forester that a credit union member had relinquished because he could no longer afford the payments, according to court records.
Takushi allegedly gave the vehicle to her daughter in 2009.
Cheung, 34, is charged with one count of embezzlement. She is accused of making 54 false entries, totaling $16,732, from about September 2007 through September 2012, according to court documents.
Nishida, 41, is charged with one count of embezzlement. She allegedly entered 122 false payments, totaling $358,685, from about May 2009 to August 2011, according to court documents.
The three women were not arrested because they reached an agreement with defense attorneys to surrender before their initial appearances in U.S. District Court, which will likely happen within the next two weeks, Simon said.
If convicted, they will forfeit any property traceable to the embezzlement or substitute property, according to federal law.
The statutory maximum penalty for embezzlement from a federally-insured credit union is 30 years in prison per count.
The statutory maximum penalty for making false entries into the books and records of a federal credit is 30 years in prison per count.