A 2021 investigation by Mililani High School officials into allegations of theft from the athletic booster club revealed that then-athletic director Glenn S. Nitta allegedly used the nonprofit’s money to pay $364,709 for personal expenses, including gambling in Las Vegas; business, car and student loans; credit cards; and a Chinese dinner on New Year’s Eve.
The school has yet to recover any of the money that it raised through concession sales at games and other fundraisers.
At the time the alleged theft was uncovered, the school’s principal, Frederick A.S.W. Murphy, told Honolulu police in a written statement obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that school officials reviewed 65 bank statements and 1,235 cleared checks from the Mililani High School Athletic Booster Club Inc. between Sept. 1, 2015, and Jan. 1, 2021.
Murphy was concerned since the nonprofit operated “as the main booster organization for all of the sports teams at MHS.”
“There are many financial commitments to the 30+ individual Varsity and Junior Varsity Teams at Mililani High School and any money that was on hold for those teams is unaccounted for,” wrote Murphy. “I am concerned that there may be other financial commitments made by the Mililani High School Athletic Club, Inc. that I am not aware of. The Mililani High School Athletic Booster Club, Inc. was founded to support the student athletes at Mililani High School and fundraisers under this assumption. It was not set up to financially support members of the board of directors or their families or any specific individual.”
Nitta, 75, was indicted Friday and charged with three counts each of first-degree and second-degree theft and two counts of failing to report income. He surrendered to state sheriff’s deputies Monday, posted bail and makes his initial appearance Monday.
An anonymous tip to the state Department of Education’s Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua Complex Area superintendent alleging the impropriety cited the nonprofit’s work with a shirt company owned by Nitta’s son, Galenn, according to the statement to police.
Nitta served as president of the school’s now-dissolved nonprofit, according to state records and Murphy’s statement to police. The nonprofit was incorporated on Aug. 23, 2001.
The club’s listed officers were Nitta’s wife, Gaile Nitta, secretary; brother-in-law Phillip Carlos, director; sister-in-law Helen Carlos, treasurer; daughter Glenelle Nitta, a director and a physical education teacher and softball coach at Mililani High School; and son Galenn Nitta, a director.
Two vice principals at Mililani High School conducted an investigation and made an audio recording of an interview with Nitta during which he was confronted with their findings. The vice principals “reported many allegations confirmed by AD Nitta’s admissions in the recording” that was turned over to Honolulu police with other documents.
After reviewing their findings, Murphy had custodians lock Nitta out of the athletic director’s office, the gymnasium concession stand area, the stadium concession stand area, the stadium drink concession area and storage areas at the gymnasium.
Letters were sent to each of the nonprofit’s listed officers ordering them to immediately close the booster club, transfer any remaining funds to the newly incorporated “Mililani High School Athletic Foundation” and “cease all further action on behalf of Mililani High School and Mililani High School Athletics.”
“I have not directed AD Nitta, nor anyone else to make the aforementioned transactions,” Murphy told police. “I am overwhelmed by the volume of concerns generated by the investigation. I need assistance and do not have the authority to obtain the information nor the expertise to conduct a proper forensic accounting. … I am concerned that this is the tip of the iceberg as Mr. Nitta has been the Athletic Director at Mililani High School Since 2001. There could be 20 years of financial mismanagement.”
Murphy told police the money surrendered to the Mililani Athletic Foundation was short nearly $2,000 despite records showing around $21,000 collected between March 2020 and March 2021.
At least $2,000 per month went into the now-closed nonprofit from March to November 2020 for a total of $18,000, Murphy said.
Money from three majors fundraiser was “unaccounted for,” including about $15,000 from car wash ticket sales, $2,000 from a “Savers fundraiser” and more than $500 from a Christmas gift wrapping event, the school reported to police.
Nitta did not reply to Star-Advertiser messages seeking comment. His attorney, Scott K. Collins, declined comment.
According to the March 23, 2021, written statement to Honolulu police, Nitta cut $188,750 in checks to himself “and family members with the last name ‘Nitta’” between 2015 and 2021.
In 2015 a total of $11,500 in checks was issued from the nonprofit’s account to Nitta and/or family members that the school could not immediately link to official athletic department activities, according to the school’s statement.
That number increased to $35,550 in 2016, $36,900 in 2017 and $38,500 in 2018. The annual total associated with checks to the Nitta family from the nonprofit’s account fell to $38,300 in 2019, $27,300 in 2020 and $700 in 2021, the year Nitta retired.
Murphy noted in his statement to police that the checks in 2020 and 2021 “were written during a pandemic,” and “all sporting operations” were closed from March 2020 to March 2021.
The amounts paid by the checks were “unusually large, even dollar amounts,” according to Murphy’s statement to HPD. If they were reimbursements for work done by the Nittas to benefit the nonprofit, they “would usually reflect exact reimbursements for purchases.”
“The Mililani High School Athletic Booster Club, Inc. had a debit card and I am confused as to why such a high volume of checks written for reimbursement?” wrote Murphy.
Four personal credit card accounts were also reimbursed by Nitta with the nonprofit’s funds, according to the school’s investigation, in the amount of $131,593.45 between 2015 and 2021.
The payments to the four credit card companies started with $9,200 in 2015 before ballooning to $30,965.65 in 2016. In 2017 the nonprofit reimbursed the four accounts $28,746.80; in 2018, $18,141.07; in 2019, $20,854.69; in 2020, $23,335.29; and in 2021 the payments fell to $349.95.
The investigation by school officials also uncovered $23,622 in cash withdrawals, including $11,630 in 2020 when all athletic activities were shut down.
Also, between 2015 and 2021 the nonprofit allegedly made $13,433.19 in loan payments to UBS Financial to cover a business loan that allegedly funded a family operation.
“I can think of no reason why the following monthly payments to ‘UBS Financial’ would be charged to the Mililani High School Athletic Booster Club, Inc.,” Murphy told police.
School officials also flagged 15 transactions between 2015 and 2021 charged to the booster club that totaled $ 7,310.36.
Those charges included $3,516 at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. Three transactions were each for $1,004 and occurred on Nov. 11, 2017; Dec. 26, 2017; and Nov. 11, 2019. On that November day in 2019, Nitta also allegedly charged $504.50 to the nonprofit’s card at the Tropicana.
On Jan. 26, 2016, Nitta allegedly paid a $452.76 mobile phone bill with the nonprofit’s card. On Feb. 8, 2016, a $600 student loan payment was charged to the booster club’s account. Payments to service a GM Financial car loan, golf at the Hoakalei Country Club, a debt consolidation loan, seat covers, a cable bill and a Chinese dinner on New Year’s Eve 2020 were also detailed in the school’s report to police.
Nitta taught at Mililani for 48 years and was a member of the school’s original staff when the campus opened in 1973, according to state records. He also coached the junior varsity and varsity baseball teams and retired March 31, 2021.
210323 Police Statement From Principal Murphy to HPD by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd
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