Friday, October 9, 2015         

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School employee pleads guilty to theft and forgery

An administrative assistant used Lehua Elementary's credit card to buy goods

By Nelson Daranciang


A former Lehua Elementary employee used school money to buy herself prescription contact lenses, beer, wine, a king-size bed, clothing, food, a high-definition television and a digital camera, a state attorney said yesterday.

Janel Echiberi, 35, former administrative services assistant at the Pearl City school, pleaded guilty in Circuit Court yesterday to two counts of second-degree theft and one count of second-degree forgery.

Each of the charges is a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

However, under the terms of a plea agreement, the state has promised to ask for no more than a year in jail at sentencing in December. Echiberi will be free to ask for no jail time and to have the charges removed from her record.

"From the beginning she regretted what she did," said Ben Ignacio, Echiberi's lawyer. "She took steps to make amends. We were hoping that it wouldn't result in a criminal prosecution, but it did."

He said Echiberi resigned after she was caught.

Christopher Young, deputy state attorney general, said Echiberi has paid back $2,800 she stole. She still owes the school $12,371 for purchases she made from August 2004 to September 2008 using the school's Sam's Club credit card and $738 she received after she put her name on the school's payroll as a tutor even though she was not.

Echiberi has agreed to pay back the rest at a rate of at least $300 per month.

Young said that in the beginning Echiberi apparently bought things using the school's credit card but repaid the school. But later, "I think she got into a position where she realized no one was checking what purchases were being made and then continued to use the card for her own use," he said.

Young said Echiberi used the school principal's signature stamp on a purchase order to pay the credit card bill. Young said the theft was discovered when Sam's Club reduced the school's credit limit because of overcharges.

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