Former financial planner sentenced to 20 yrs. for swindling customers

Former financial planner sentenced to 20 yrs. to swindling customers
Bruce Harada
Bruce Harada

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Bruce Harada choked back tears as he apologized for his crimes during his sentencing hearing Tuesday morning.

Harada, a former financial advisor for ING North America Corp. convinced 22 retiring and active city employees to cash-out retirement accounts and invest in a mutual fund.   But the fund did not exist and Harada took the money, totaling 2.2 million dollars.

"(He) bought four cars," says prosecuting attorney Chris Van Marter, who said Harada also used the money to pay for lavish vacations, clothes, and school tuitions.

The scam went on for years.

Harada was finally arrested in May of 2012.  He pleaded guilty to securities fraud and money laundering.

Just before his sentence was read, Harada addressed the court.   In addition to the emotional apology to his family, the victims and his coworkers, he admitted that greed was the driving factor.

"My selfishness blinded me to the damage I would cause," Harada said.

Circuit Court Judge Rom Trader handed down a 20-year sentence for the first charge which will run concurrently with a 10-year sentence for the second charge.   Judge Trader could have made those consecutive, but didn't.

"He's doing what he can to make things right after having done a lot of wrong," says Harada's attorney Ed Harada.  The two Haradas are not related.

But prosecutor Chris Van Marter is not impressed with the apology.

"I'm not sure how sincere he is.  He got caught, he acknowledged his guilt when the evidence against him was overwhelming."

The Hawaii Paroling Authority will meet later this year to decide the minimum Harada will have to serve.

All of the victims got their investment money back from ING.  That's why the judge ordered restitution to be paid to the company.  The total amount, $1,846,402.31.  Harada's attorney admits, it's highly unlikely ING will get that money.

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