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State investigates Waianae homeless nonprofit

By Associated Press


The state Department of Human Services is investigating the alleged theft of hundreds of thousands from a leeward Oahu homeless shelter.

Hawaii News Now (http://ow.ly/qPgtF) reported Wednesday the investigation is focusing on the alleged theft of $800,000 by the former program director of Waianae Community Outreach.

The nonprofit receives nearly $1 million a year from the state to operate a transitional housing shelter in Kalaeloa and provide outreach services for hundreds of homeless Leeward Coast families.

Christy Ho, an attorney for the nonprofit, said human services investigators are requesting nearly all of the organization's financial records, including board meeting meetings. A spokeswoman for human services said the department won't comment on the matter because it's under investigation.

The organization is suing former program director Laura Pitolo, claiming she signed checks to herself and family members and made unauthorized withdrawals. Pitolo declined to comment.

The suit alleges that the thefts occurred over four years and that Pitolo made dozens of unauthorized ATM withdrawals and wrote checks to herself, her friends and family members, including $169,000 to her father. She was fired after the alleged thefts were discovered.

Ho said the thefts didn't force the nonprofit to cut services to the homeless, but that employees were affected. Some workers went without pay for up to three months, said interim director Tanya Tehotu.

"Unfortunately, the worst that can happen is that the contracts we have with the state could be pulled back," said Cynthia Rezentes, a Waianae Community Outreach board member.

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Pocho wrote:
So Sad they take for themselves and let the workers suffer. Throw em in Jail and throw the key away!!! Pityful "sigh" shm
on November 14,2013 | 03:18PM
cojef wrote:
How do these individuals get selected or appointed to these jobs? No background checks on position processing millions of dollars? If the allegations are true, a heinous crime was committed by this individual. Taking monies appropriated for the homeless is unconscionable and to add salt in the wounds, she did not pay her staff for months is the epitome of greed.
on November 14,2013 | 03:34PM
50skane wrote:
Unreal, the ones that are supposed to have the most compassion are the worst crooks..
on November 14,2013 | 04:12PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Suing her? She should be jail for the next 10 years for stealing taxpayer money meant to help homeless people. How does she at night after stealing from the most needy people she was hired to help? Why isn't the police investigating this?
on November 14,2013 | 07:46PM
Manoa_Fisherman wrote:
The board of directors of the non-profit are liable for the operations of the corporation. The board members can be sued to recover the lost funds, since they were responsible for overseeing the management and finances of the organization. The Attorney General is tasked with oversight of non-profits, so I would hope that they get cracking on the lawsuits as soon as possible to recover the government funds that were stolen.
on November 14,2013 | 09:10PM
miss_laulau wrote:
Here we go again. How can these people live with themselves and face the people she works with knowing that because of her greed, they are not getting paid. Did she not feel any guilt? I guess not.
on November 15,2013 | 03:34AM
localguy wrote:
This is nothing new when our clearly clueless state bureaucrats fail to ensure solid financial management controls are in place and those who handle money have a background check. But noooo, they just throw money at a charity after kow towing to them. Another case of bureaucratic mismanagement and more wasted tax payer's money. People need to go to jail for theft of public funds. Bureaucrats need to be fired for incompetence. Sad this is just standard practice in the Nei.
on November 15,2013 | 04:51AM
hawaiinui wrote:
This is one of those, "I no can believe" stories. I would imagine that there would have had to be staff meetings with reports from the Treasurer at one time or another in the years this criminal act was perpetrated. This boss (and directors) of the alleged crooked "boss" (Piloto) should have been looking for bottom line stats during this woman's tenure. Simple math would have dictated that questions were in order when a $169,000 deduction from their balance sheets appeared. Then again, is incompetence, lack of basic oversight over taxpayers money and is a major contributor to this robbery. Wonder if this lady is still here in the state or ran off to some Polynesian island way out in the Pacific?
on November 15,2013 | 05:44AM
Mike174 wrote:
Laura Pitolo should be strung up in front of Iolani Palace and publicly beaten to death.
on November 15,2013 | 06:35AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Why is DHS investigating the alleged theft? It seems to me a crime has been committed and that it should be investigated by law enforcement authorities. And while they are at it, they need to investigate as possible co-conspirators the family members who received the checks from Pitolo.
on November 15,2013 | 07:17AM
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