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Former Waipahu High official charged with stealing $500,000

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Authorities have charged a former business manager at Waipahu High with theft and money laundering for allegedly stealing nearly $500,000 from the school over five years.

Warren Harada, 61, of Manoa, was arrested Oct. 28 for one count of theft and four counts of money laundering. He was charged Thursday.

Harada, who has been fired by the DOE, was business manager at Waipahu High School from August 1993 to December 2010, state Department of Education officials said.  When reached this week by the Star-Advertiser, he declined comment.

The state Attorney General’s office said Harada obtained $499,769.50 from Waipahu High “by deception.” He is charged with money laundering because he concealed the proceeds of his theft from Waipahu High, the state said.

First-degree theft and money laundering are felonies, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Harada is set to appear in court Nov. 21.      

Department of Education officials declined comment because the criminal investigation is ongoing.

The case comes just three months after Pearl Ridge Elementary School secretary Denise Hayashi was sentenced to five years of probation for stealing $68,870 from the school.

Hayashi, 41, was also ordered to perform 1,500 hours of community service as part of a plea agreement with the state. She also paid back the money she stole.

After Hayashi’s arrest in January, DOE superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said the department needed to redouble its efforts to prevent the recurrence of large thefts at schools.

She said that the DOE has policies in place that “when followed provide the appropriate internal controls,” but added staff shortages have made policy enforcement tough.

Hayashi’s arrest in January came on the heels of another schol theft case. In December 2010, Lehua Elementary School secretary Janel Echiberi was ordered to perform 450 hours of community service after stealing $13,000 from fundraisers and donations the school collected for student programs.

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