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Former Red Cross employee begins jail term for theft

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A former American Red Cross, Hawaii chapter employee started serving a six month jail term this morning for stealing nearly $52,000 from the disaster relief organization.

A state judge today sentenced Kathleen Mary Caneda, 62, to five years of probation for first-degree theft and ordered her to spend the first six months of her sentence behind bars.

Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario also ordered Caneda to perform 100 hours of community service and to repay the Red Cross $51,846 at a rate of $250 per month.

Prosecutor Scott Bell had asked Del Rosario to send Caneda to prison for 10 years and order her to repay the money she stole at a rate of at least $500 per month. He said Caneda has been living with her daughter and collects $1,500 per month in Social Security and pension.

The state says Caneda forged 145 checks from July 8, 2004, to Jan. 5, 2012, making them payable to herself.

Red Cross Hawaii Chief Executive Officer Coralie Matayoshi said Caneda was working as an accounts payable clerk at the time.

According to her presentence report, Caneda covered her tracks by making false entries into the organization’s books indicating that the money was paid to non-existent venders she created, Del 

Rosario said.

The state says most of the checks were in amounts under $500, which could be endorsed with machine-generated signatures. Checks of $500 or more needed to be co-signed by Matayoshi.

Another Red Cross employee noticed that the checks didn’t match the book entries, triggering an audit. Matayoshi said the organization then turned the case over to police.

Caneda apologized in court to Matayoshi, the Red Cross and to her family.

Her lawyer Lee Hayakawa said when police confronted Caneda, she immediately confessed to the detective and to Matayoshi. He said Caneda spent the money on necessities, not luxuries.

Matayoshi said local Red Cross chapters no longer have positions for accounts payable clerks because the national organization has taken over the job of paying vendors.

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