HONOLULU – A defendant in arguably one of Oahu’s most bizarre embezzlement cases was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Monday, Sept. 8.
Jenny Nishida, 41, of Pearl City, must spend 13 months in prison beginning Oct. 14, and be under supervised release for another 5 years for stealing $358,685 from her employer, OTS Employees Federal Credit Union. The former teller, who worked at the credit union for 6 years, is required to pay $330,460 in restitution.
Nishida 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 in the credit union’s financials in 2012.
The audit led to an internal investigation – and then a subsequent FBI investigation – that showed three of four credit union employees were embezzling money.
In a weird twist, the women did not conspire together to steal the nearly half a million dollars taken from the credit union, said FBI Special Agent Tom Simon, who investigated the case.
“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.
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. Under federal law, she could have been sentenced to 30 years in prison and $1 million in restitution.
In court Monday, Nishida cried when she made her statement and apologized to U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway. She admitted some of the money she stole was used for vacations in California. Nishida’s husband was in court, along with her son. Though there was $160,000 charged to her husband’s credit card, he was not included in the criminal case.
Two other employees also charged with embezzlement included Dona Takushi, 54, of Honolulu, who stole $120,000. The former manager and CEO at the credit union will be sentenced on September 18, 2014 for two counts of embezzlement and one count of false entries.
Nicole Cheung, 35, of Honolulu, was sentenced Aug. 25 to 20 days in prison and three months home confinement. 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.
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.
“Working at a credit union is a huge responsibility. Any employee embezzlement is a real abuse of trust and a slap in the face to both the credit union and the members,” Simon said.
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.”