Otsuka allegedly refused to deliver benefit funds
A Tahitian dance troupe raised more than $3,000 to fly its dancers and musicians to Maui for a dance competition in 2001.
But they ended up having to borrow the money after a volunteer repeatedly refused to turn over the fundraiser proceeds, said Belinda Miranda, vice president of the nonprofit Manutahi.
Miranda testified for the prosecution Tuesday in the second-degree theft trial of Lisa-Katharine Otsuka, formerly of Maui.
Otsuka, who volunteered to assist the group in securing raffle prizes, is accused of stealing $3,035 that Manutahi raised at the April 1, 2001, event at Ocean Club in Restaurant Row. Otsuka, who told the group after the fundraiser that she could convert the cash into a cashier's check and present it to the troupe at their next practice, said she turned over the money to Miranda.
Otsuka first surfaced in the city prosecutor's 2002 investigation into then-Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign. Otsuka also faces a second trial on unrelated theft and forgery charges.
Miranda, who danced with Manutahi, testified Tuesday that she phoned Otsuka repeatedly after the fundraiser asking about the money, and was assured that Otsuka would get the check to them.
A month later, Otsuka told Miranda she was moving and that the check was packed in a box at a friend's house. She continued to press Otsuka for the check, calling and leaving messages, but still Otsuka kept evading them, Miranda said.
In July, three months after the fundraiser and feeling the pressure from the dancers and parents who kept asking if they were going to compete on Maui the following month, Miranda said she went to ask for help from Dave Debolt, an acquaintance who was dating Otsuka and who had introduced Otsuka to her.
Miranda wept on the stand as she described the pressure she was under by having to explain to parents and the kids that the money was not forthcoming. She said she jumped at Debolt's offer to loan them the money even as she wondered how they would pay him back.
Miranda, her husband and Manutahi founder Debra Ann Teriipaia ended up each paying $750 out of their pockets to repay the loan. The balance came from more fundraising that the parents and dancers did, Miranda said.
Finally, after six months of excuses why she did not have the check or could not get the check to them and three months after the group had returned from the competition, Otsuka finally told Miranda over the phone, "You are never going to get it."
Otsuka also claimed in that same conversation that she had paid for the raffle prizes. In a letter to the group before the fundraiser, Otsuka had valued the prizes, which included a 32-inch TV and DVD player and gift certificates for popular restaurants, a cruise, shopping sprees and auto detailing, at more than $3,200.
Miranda said Otsuka never turned over any proceeds from the Ocean Club fundraiser. There was never any agreement that Otsuka would be reimbursed for assisting them in securing the raffle prizes, she said.
Scott Miyamoto, who worked as a teller at American Savings Ala Moana and had assisted Otsuka in 2001, testified that she purchased a cashier's check paid out to Manutahi in the amount of $3,035 on April 14.
Miyamoto said the processing marks on the cashier's check indicate that the purchaser had returned the check for processing April 17 and did not use it for the purpose initially intended. The payee on the cashier's check indicated it was to go to Manutahi. The only person who could have cashed or deposited the check would have been the purchaser: Otsuka.
The trial continues today.