Nonprofit accuses former high-level FBI agent of stealing thousands

Published: Oct. 16, 2017 at 9:55 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 17, 2017 at 9:33 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former high-ranking FBI official in Honolulu is under fire after a local nonprofit accused him of stealing more than $33,000.

In a police statement filed last month, the nonprofit Hawaii LGBT Legacy Foundation said that between November 2016 and August 2017, 56-year-old Robert Kauffman wrote improper checks and made several unauthorized withdrawals from the foundation's bank account.

Kauffman is a former assistant special agent-in-charge of the FBI's Honolulu field office, and served with the bureau for more than 20 years where he investigated organized crime and espionage cases. He also served as the foundation's treasurer.

"Several of these checks and bank account withdrawals were in excess of $3,000, which requires the approval of two board members," attorney and foundation director David Brustein wrote.

"Robert did not have signatures or board approval," Brustein added.

But Kauffman's attorney, Myles Breiner, said his client is "innocent of any embezzlement," and was safeguarding the money from being misspent.

He said Kauffman returned the money with a cashier's check even before the foundation went to the police.

"Mr. Kauffman is innocent of any embezzlement. We believe that there was a disagreement over the handling of funds by the Legacy Foundation," said Breiner.

"(He) was concerned about some of the decision being made about the costs and financing of various projects the foundation was endorsing."

Kauffman is currently chief investigator for the state Judiciary's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which oversees attorney conduct.

He's also listed as the CEO of The Wellness Group LLC, which unsuccessfully applied for a medical marijuana dispensary license. Among the Wellness Groups' investors included foundation board members Brustein and Dr. David McEwan.

Brustein said Kauffman's role at the two organizations are unrelated.

The Hawaii LGBT Legacy Foundation is a tax-exempt organization that supports causes for the gay, lesbian and transgendered people and is a big organizer of the Honolulu Pride festival happened throughout October.

The $33,000 is nearly half of the foundation's annual revenues. Legal experts said allegations of theft or mismanagement can be financially exhausting for a nonprofit.

"It is more damaging, not only to the organization but the people who the organization was set up to assist," said Hawaii Pacific University assistant professor Randal Lee, a retired Circuit Judge who has investigated hundreds of white-collar crime cases as a Honolulu deputy prosecutor.

Honolulu police are investigating and have turned over the case to its white-collar division. Kauffman plans to fight the allegations.

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