HONOLULU – The final defendant in a trio of women who collectively embezzled a half a million dollars from the Oahu Transit Services Federal Credit Union was sentenced Thursday, Sept. 19, in U.S. District Court.
U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor ordered Dona Takushi, the former manager of the credit union, to serve 15 months in federal prison and pay $78,000 in restitution.
Takushi, 54, earlier pleaded guilty to one felony count of embezzlement and misapplication of funds and two felony counts of false entries into the books of the credit union.
U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni said Takushi obtained online access to the credit union’s VISA payment system and falsely inputted $40,000 worth of VISA payments for herself and a family member between 2010 to 2012.
In addition, between 2007 to 2012, Takushi made 153 false entries into the credit books so that she and an associate could obtain over $55,000 in loans that they could not qualify for, Nakakuni said.
Finally, in 2009, after a customer turned in a 2008 Subaru Forester because the customer could no longer afford payments on the car, Takushi falsely charged-off the $18,000 car loan and did not log the car into the repossessed collateral inventory records. She then executed a transfer of title putting herself and her daughter on the car title as owners without any payments made to the credit union, Nakakuni said.
Her defense attorney, Howard Luke, told reporters that most of the restitution had already been paid, his client is “extremely remorseful”, and her friends are “perplexed” by her actions, because they know Takushi is a “good person.”
Takushi is one of three women caught embezzling money from the credit union, which services employees of TheBus, after an auditor from the National Credit Union Association noticed discrepancies.
The audit led to an internal investigation – and then a subsequent FBI investigation – that showed three of four credit union employees were embezzling money.
Jenny Nishida, 41, a former bank teller who worked at the credit union for 6 years, also was convicted of embezzlement after she stole $358,685. She must spend 13 months in prison beginning Oct. 14, pay $330,460 in restitution and be under supervised release for another 5 years.
According to her plea agreement, Nishida falsely inputted 122 false Visa payments that were credited to her account and the account of a family member, when the payments were not actually made.
Nicole Cheung, 35, also embezzled money from the credit union. The former loan officer pleaded guilty in August to one count of embezzlement for stealing $16,732 and will begin her prison term Oct. 4. She was sentenced Aug. 25 to 20 days in prison and three months home confinement.
The 35-year-old mother of four issued loans in her name and in the names of family members and on 54 occasions “paid down” her own credit card on the system without actually paying money.
In a bizarre twist, the women did not conspire in this three part embezzlement case, said FBI Special Agent Tom Simon, who was the lead investigator.
“It was an unusual situation that in 20 years in law enforcement I have never seen where three individuals working shoulder to shoulder were stealing from the same credit union without the others knowing that they were doing that. It was the proverbial den of thieves,” said Simon.
The thefts were “an expensive lesson” for TheBus credit union, Simon said.
“The OTS 3 case is unfortunate for everyone involved. However, this case underscores the importance of small credit unions carrying fidelity loss insurance, having solid internal controls, and promoting an engaged board of directors,” Simon said. “The fact that the credit union carried fidelity loss insurance likely saved the financial institution from insolvency and gave them an opportunity to rebuild with a new management team.”
A word of caution for all credit unions to hire a forensic bookkeeper now and then. Even if not a full audit, a forensic bookkeeper can target specific objectives for suspicious activity. Say the car loan portfolio.
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