HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A grand jury has indicted a 69-year-old woman for allegedly stealing nearly $6 million from a Hawaii nonprofit that helps those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in what's being called a "particularly egregious" case.
Officials identified the former Arc in Hawaii employee as Lola Jean Amorin, and called her siphoning of money from the agency over more than a decade one of the worst cases of embezzlement ever handled by the city prosecutor's office.
"Besides the shocking amount of money that was taken, what makes this case particularly egregious is the fact that the stolen money was intended to benefit children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities," city prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said, in a news release.
Amorin is charged with multiple counts of theft, computer fraud and money laundering.
Amorin worked for Arc in Hawaii for more than 30 years as a senior accountant, and her duties included processing accounts payable, Kaneshiro said.
In a statement, Arc in Hawaii said the nonprofit was "shocked and saddened" when they discovered the theft.
"We immediately launched an internal investigation, took action to stop further theft and have cooperated fully with law enforcement," the Arc said. "We have implemented new procedures and financial controls we believe will prevent similar crimes from occurring in the future."
The statement continues, "We want to assure our families and the community that this behavior does not reflect the hard work our 200 employees perform every day for our residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and we remain committed to serving them as we have for the past 63 years."
Families who use the Arc's services are outraged.
"She knowingly stole money that directly deprived those people of programs and services that they need. She knows their names, she sees their faces. That is just beyond reproach," said Debbie Kobayakawa.
Kobayakawa's 27-year old son, Ian, has been living in an Arc in Hawaii home in Waipahu for the last six years. She says Ian works hard as a Safeway courtesy clerk to own his own money and pay his rent.
"He pays between $400-$600 a month every month out of the money that he earns. She knew she was stealing money from people like him. I can't even begin to think of what that sum of money would do to improve the programs and services for people with disabilities," Kobayakawa said.
Officials said the theft was found during a routine audit and reported to police. The losses that have been identified occurred from late 2006 to early 2017.
To track down the scope of the embezzlement, police and prosecutors executed more than 40 search warrants to get bank, credit card and other records.
Investigators learned that large chunks of the embezzled funds were used to pay mortgages on at least four properties on Oahu, the Big Island, and Las Vegas, Kaneshiro said.
Those familiar with embezzlement cases say the chances the Arc in Hawaii will get the stolen funds back are slim.
"When you're talking about millions and millions of dollars, the likelihood of recouping that money is highly unlikely. When you steal from organizations that are out there to help people, I think that's the worst type of crime," said former prosecutor and judge Randal Lee, a Hawaii Pacific University assistant professor of criminal justice.
Amorin's bail has been set at $3 million.