Waimanalo health leader admits thefts
As chief executive, she had at least $71,000 paid for personal use
A former executive director of the Waimanalo Health Center has admitted to embezzling at least $71,000 from the public health clinic for personal expenses.
Radine Kawahine Kamakea-Ohelo, 53, pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Barry Kurren to four counts of theft from a health-care benefit program.
The thefts occurred over a six-year period, beginning in 1997 and continuing through 2002, and included shopping trips and a visit to a laser eye center, court documents said.
Kamakea-Ohelo described her actions yesterday as "mismanaging" funds through her use of credit cards.
Each count to which she pleaded guilty represented one of several fraudulent methods that she used to obtain the money, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Les Osborne.
One count involved a $339 reimbursement the center made to her for purchases she made on the center's credit card. The center also paid the credit card company for the November 2001 purchase, resulting in a double payment.
In another instance, Kamakea-Ohelo received reimbursement from the center for personal expenses that she claimed were business-related. She admitted to presenting the center with a bill for a trip to San Francisco and Florida that included $775 in personal expenses.
She also made personal charges on two of the center's credit cards that were later paid by the center. She admitted that in February 2002 she had received a $1,560 reimbursement for unspecified work done at the Pan Pacific Laser Eye Institute.
Finally, she requested and received payment from the center for personal expenses that she charged to her own credit card, including a $342 purchase from a Ross store.
In a plea agreement, Kamakea-Ohelo acknowledged that she had no authority to convert the center's money for her personal use. The estimated loss to the health center is between $71,000 and $120,000.
Prosecutors are expected to argue at sentencing for an increase in her sentence because her conduct took more than minimal planning and she breached a position of trust. The government is also seeking restitution in an amount to be determined later.
A September 2004 indictment charged Kamakea-Ohelo with 93 counts, representing separate transactions over the six-year period. Under the agreement, the government will dismiss the remaining counts at sentencing. She faces a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of the four counts.
Kamakea-Ohelo was one of the founders of the health center in 1988 and served in various capacities, including executive director beginning in 1992. The center's board of directors fired her in January 2003 amid allegations of financial mismanagement raised by former employees.
Kamakea-Ohelo is also pending trial for welfare fraud in state Circuit Court. She and former husband Clyde Ohelo were charged in an April 2003 indictment with second-degree theft for receiving $19,000 in public assistance to which they were not entitled.
That case is set for trial Nov. 7.