Bookkeeper pleads guilty to theft that 'devastated' Maui pro surfer, mother

Bookkeeper pleads guilty to theft that 'devastated' Maui pro surfer, mother
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

former bookkeeper for a professional surfer faces years in federal prison after admitting to stealing nearly $374,000 from the surfer and his mother.

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Felicidad Rivera walked out of federal court Wednesday shielding her face from the media after pleading guilty to 13 counts of wire fraud.

The 51-year-old bookkeeper admitted she stole the money over seven years from Maui professional surfer Clay Marzo and his mother, Jill Marzo Clark.

They hired Rivera to handle his contest winnings and endorsement money and the finances for her vacation rental business.

"It felt right and it also tears your heart out because it absolutely devastated me and my family," Jill Marzo Clark said, after the hearing.

Outside the courthouse, Rivera and a male companion declined comment, shielding their faces from cameras.

Rivera sobbed in court, but offered no apology after the hearing.

Prosecutors said Rivera took advantage of the Marzos' disabilities. Marzo has autism, and his mom has severe dyslexia.

"What we have here is just a horrific breach of trust," said Kenneth Sorenson, the assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case. "We have a defendant who victimized two fairly vulnerable business owners on Maui. She earned their trust, she violated the trust."

Court documents show Rivera wrote 193 checks to herself and used the stolen money to pay her credit card debt.

For each of the 13 counts, Rivera could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000.

But since Rivera is a first-time offender, prosecutors say she will likely receive five to 10 years behind bars.

She also is not a U.S. citizen, and so her conviction might affect her status as a legal permanent resident.

"I hope she has to serve her sentence and hopefully pay back what she stole from my son. I'm sorta sick to my stomach," Jill Marzo Clark said.

Rivera is set to be sentenced June 5.

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