Thursday, September 2, 2004

Thieving mall
manager sentenced

Renee Bonsilao will serve
six months for stealing $680,000

A former property manager at Waianae Mall was sentenced to six months in prison as a condition of probation for stealing more than $680,000 during 1 1/2 years.

Renee Bonsilao, 35, of Waipahu, pleaded guilty on June 15 to first-degree theft, three counts of second-degree forgery and money laundering for diverting rent collected by tenants into personal bank accounts she controlled, and forging checks made out to her between October 1999 and March 2001.

Bonsilao formerly worked for Jackson & Sulliban Inc., a property management company hired by mall owner Gentry Industrial.

Yesterday, Bonsilao admitted she did wrong and feels badly about what happened but said she never intended to cause any harm. She said she only wanted for the mall to benefit and denied receiving any of the money. She said she used the money to pay others for services or improvements to the mall and to hold craft fairs and concerts that would draw shoppers.

But Circuit Judge Perkins said yesterday he found it hard to believe none of the money went to her when she could not account for well more than half a million dollars that was stolen.

"She did a lot of lying and forging, and she's saying it's just for the mall and I don't believe she got nothing out of it," he said.

About $87,000 allegedly went to pay for services such as cleaning the mall and making improvements, including $14,000 to her husband, said Deputy Prosecutor Randall Lee. But three individuals who performed work testified before a grand jury and said they were instructed by Bonsilao to cash the checks and return most of the cash to her, Lee said.

If Bonsilao's intent was to benefit the mall, there would be no reason to hide the bank accounts and forge other people's signatures, Lee said.

The investigation revealed that Bonsilao had written 140 checks totaling $117,000 to herself from a Bank of Hawaii petty cash account that had been previously closed, Lee said. She also forged the signatures of her predecessor and that of a Gentry employee on the checks after she forged the employee's signature on a bank document as a person authorized to sign checks on the account, Lee said.

While the insurance company covered the $682,000 loss and will recoup it through premiums, Gentry had to spend $15,690 on an audit, Lee said.

Lee recommended that Bonsilao serve some jail, be ordered to repay Gentry for the audit and perform community service. Considering she was not being asked to repay the $682,000, "I think it's a steal," Lee said.

Deputy public defender Tyrus Buyama had argued that Bonsilao's marriage and her good name have suffered because of her conduct, and asked that she be placed on probation with some community service.

Besides placing Bonsilao on five years' probation, Perkins ordered her to pay back $15,690 for the audit, perform 300 hours of community service and denied her request to serve her jail time on the weekends. Bonsilao must return to court Sept. 16 to turn herself in and begin serving her time.



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