Two former youth program leaders appeared in court Thursday, one facing allegations that he stole from a Little League organization and the other to be sentenced for stealing from a Parent-Teacher-Student Association.
Paulo Salas-Selem, a father from Kapolei, pleaded not guilty in Oahu Circuit Court to three counts of second-degree forgery and four counts of second-degree theft for allegedly stealing money from the Makakilo-Kapolei-Honokai Hale Little League while serving as league treasurer.
Michael J. Nathan, a Maui accountant who served as PTSA treasurer from 2004 to 2006, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and five years’ probation after being found guilty on charges that he stole nearly $34,000.
According to Deputy Attorney General Christopher Young, Salas-Selem was arrested June 24 after the league accused him of forging three checks and stealing $11,500 during his 2007-2008 tenure as league treasurer.
Pam Witty-Oakland, the defendant’s successor and first person to discover the budget discrepancies, said the league attempted to work out a payment plan with Salas-Selem but was forced to report him to authorities after he failed to pay up.
"We wanted to give him a chance to make good on it," Witty-Oakland said, "but the deadline came and went."
Witty-Oakland said an agreement was set up through Dirk Von Guethner and Associates — a forensics accounting firm — who allegedly got Salas-Selem to sign a promissory note admitting that he had stolen the money and that he was willing to pay it back in full.
"Based on that evidence, we met with Paulo, and he admitted that he had taken that money," Von Guethner said.
Current league President Moses Pauoli said they attempted to keep the case out of the public eye because they were primarily concerned with getting their money back. He said the missing funds will hamper the league’s ability to provide safe facilities and equipment for the more than 300 baseball players who sign up each year.
"We’ve always wanted the funds back because it’s needed for the kids," Pauoli said. "Going public was not the primary goal for us, but we’re doing what we need to."
According to the Attorney General’s Office, Salas-Selem is being assigned representation through the Hawaii Public Defender’s office before his Aug. 30 trial. Salas-Selem could not be reached for comment.
Nathan pleaded no contest April 21 to first-degree theft and six counts of second-degree forgery.
According to Young, Nathan was arrested in October 2008 — nearly two years after he left his post — when a PTSA staffer realized that the funds were missing. An attorney general investigation revealed Nathan wrote checks for himself from the organization and forged a second signator’s name. Young said the former PTSA treasurer used money stolen from the nonprofit educational organization to pay off credit card debt and take private trips between islands and to the mainland.
At Thursday’s hearing in Wailuku, Maui Circuit Judge Richard Bissen ordered Nathan to pay $33,963.32 in restitution and write a letter of apology to the PTSA. In addition to probation and jail time, Nathan also will be required to perform 500 hours of community service and pay a $5,000 fine.
Following Thursday’s sentencing, Nathan officially resigned from the Valley Isle Sunset Rotary Club, where he was a charter member but did not have access to funds.
Nathan is also board president of Neighborhood Place of Wailuku, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing child abuse and strengthening families. He has also served as vice president and treasurer of the nonprofit. No one at Neighborhood Place could be reached for comment on how Nathan’s sentencing will affect his role in the organization.