HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former Institute for Human Services employee has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for taking more than $100,000 from IHS.
Federal prosecutors said that Leopoldo Bitte Jr. worked as an IHS housing specialist between 2014 and 2017, when he was terminated.
They said he took he took federal money from IHS programs for people at risk of homelessness and for people transitioning from group homes and treatment centers.
“The idea that somebody would take money is very egregious as far as I’m concerned,” said Connie Mitchell, IHS’s executive director.
Federal authorities said Bitte used fake rental agreements on behalf of fictitious IHS clients to get the nonprofit to issue dozens of checks to people pretending to be landlords. They said the phony landlords, who also have been charged, then kicked back some of the proceeds to Bitte.
“In terms of IHS ... it’s huge. That $100,000 that they embezzled, you think of the number of people (it could have helped) who needed that bed space in a clean and sober house,” said defense attorney Myles Breiner, an IHS supporter.
Lawyers for Bitte and his alleged co-conspirators had no immediate comment.
Since the theft were first discovered, the IHS said it has installed a number of internal controls to prevent future embezzlement.
The organization also conducted internal audits and had an outside auditor look at their finances.
Mitchell said IHS’s insurers covered their losses.
Meanwhile, Bitte faces at least two years in prison ― plus fines of up to $250,000 ― when he is sentenced in August.