RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Radine Nawahine Kamakea-Ohelo, former executive director of the Waimanalo Health Center, sat reading outside the federal courthouse yesterday before being sentenced for personal use of the center's credit cards.
Health center founder sentenced
The ex-director also must repay $99,000 to the Waimanalo clinic
A founding member of the Waimanalo Health Center who admitted to stealing nearly $100,000 from the clinic for personal expenses has been sentenced to 13 months in prison.
U.S. District Judge Susan Mollway also ordered Radine Nawahine Kamakea-Ohelo, the center's former executive director, to repay the center more than $99,000 she is accused of embezzling over a six-year period by using the center's credit cards and seeking reimbursement.
Prosecutors said the 53-year-old woman charged shopping trips, claimed reimbursement for trips and personal expenses to San Francisco and Florida and for more than $1,500 of work done at the Pan Pacific Laser Eye Institute.
Kamakea-Ohelo pleaded guilty in October to four counts of theft from a health care benefit program and agreed to pay restitution in exchange for the government dropping 81 other theft counts.
"This is a case about theft ... a person given a position of responsibility stole -- and there is no other word for it -- from the organization she was entrusted by the community," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Les Osborne.
The theft, according to center officials, "has caused the community to lose faith in a very important service, and this kind of double-dealing and theft cannot be allowed," Osborne said.
Kamakea-Ohelo called the charges brought against her a "blessing" during her court hearing because it showed her who her true family and friends are, and helped her realize the wrongs she committed.
But she also said she understands what it's like to be betrayed, and referred to the "payback" her family has endured.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Arakaki said letters submitted to the court attest to Kamakea-Ohelo's contributions in bringing the health center to Waimanalo, the effect she had on people who worked there and opinions by some who feel she has been punished already.
Mollway said she weighed those factors against the serious effect Kamakea-Ohelo's actions had on the Waimanalo community.
By siphoning from the center to pay for her personal expenses over a period of five years, Kamakea-Ohelo hampered its ability to purchase new equipment, better compensate its staff, hire more staff and provide better services to the community, Mollway said.
Addressing Kamakea-Ohelo's charges of betrayal, Mollway said, "The betrayal here was her betrayal of the Waimanalo Health Center," not by those who reported her to authorities. "If there was betrayal anywhere, it was from her side."
She will begin serving her sentence on March 28.
Kamakea-Ohelo was to go to trial in state Circuit Court last month as an accomplice to her ex-husband, who was accused of welfare fraud.
But the state attorney general dismissed the charge against her earlier this month after her ex-husband pleaded guilty to a second-degree theft charge, her attorney, Randy Oyama, said.
Kamakea-Ohelo helped found the community health center in 1988 -- one of 13 across the state -- and served in various positions before she was fired in January 2003.
The health center is a private, nonprofit organization that provides equal access to medical care to more than 3,500 patients -- 90 percent of whom are Waimanalo residents. In addition to fees for services, it also receives some funding from the state and the federal government.