A woman has been accused of stealing nearly $5.8 million in what officials are calling one of the worst cases of embezzlement ever handled by the Honolulu prosecutor’s office.
Lola Jean Amorin, 69, was indicted by an Oahu grand jury Thursday on multiple counts of first-degree theft, computer fraud, and money laundering.
She was arrested just before 2:30 p.m. Thursday and is scheduled to appear in court next Thursday, Sept. 28. Her bail was set at $3 million.
While the investigation is ongoing, prosecutors say Amorin stole $5,777,147.96 while working as a senior accountant for The Arc in Hawaii, a non-profit organization that serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The thefts allegedly occurred over a period of more than 10 years, from late 2006 to early 2017.
Amorin had served as the non-profit’s senior accountant for more than 30 years.
The investigation was triggered by a routine audit of The Arc’s fiscal year 2016 records. Discrepancies led The Arc to identify Amorin as the person responsible. She was immediately reported to police.
“HPD and prosecutors’ investigators used more than 40 search warrants to obtain records from numerous banks, credit unions, credit card issuers, mortgage lenders, a casino and a credit bureau, and they obtained evidence from Amorin’s work computer and e-mail account,” said Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro. “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.”
Investigators say substantial portions of the stolen funds were used to pay the mortgages on at least four properties, including properties on Oahu, Hawaii island, and one property in Las Vegas.
Officials say additional charges may be filed.
The Arc in Hawaii released the following statement:
“Earlier this year, we were shocked and saddened when we discovered a former employee had stolen money from The Arc. We immediately launched an internal investigation, took action to stop further theft and have cooperated fully with law enforcement. We have implemented new procedures and financial controls we believe will prevent similar crimes from occurring in the future.
“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.”
Natalie Iwasa, a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner, says non-profits can protect themselves against theft by “setting a good policy that fraud is not acceptable, and what will happen if somebody tries to do something.”
She also recommends establishing checks and balances, such as “making sure that the checks maybe have two signatures on them authorizing the checks. The run before it goes out, matching invoices with the checks.”
Iwasa also says it’s common for non-profits to keep pre-signed checks, just in case the person who is authorized to sign checks is not in office.
She says it’s a bad idea, and non-profits should avoid having pre-signed checks.