Woman allegedly stole $85,000 from 2 churches
But an attorney for Daria Bruce says she was conducting legitimate business
LIHUE » Prosecutors say a Kauai woman caught taking checks from the collection plate diverted as much as $85,000 from two churches from 1998 to 2005.
Daria Bruce, 62, went on trial in Circuit Court yesterday on a charge of first-degree theft, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
According to prosecutors, Bruce, secretary of Holy Cross Church in Kalaheo and Sacred Heart Parish in Eleele from 1998 until 2005, when she was fired, put checks from collections into an account for the Filipino Catholic Club.
Prosecutors then allege that Bruce, as treasurer and later president of the club, would write checks from the club made out to cash, which she cashed at her own bank.
In the meantime, she created books for the Filipino Catholic Club that did not match the bank receipts, Deputy County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask said.
"Daria Bruce would divert money that was supposed to go to the church," Trask added in his opening statement. "The evidence will show (she diverted) around $85,000."
However, Bruce's lawyer, William Feldhacker, said the case was simply a case of "things are not always what they seem to be."
Feldhacker said his client exchanged checks for cash between the club and the church, and that she often paid bills for the church and the club out of her own pocket, then reimbursed herself.
She was fired, he added, when the business manager from the Diocese of Honolulu saw checks with the church's name ending up in the club's account.
"What we have here is half an investigation," Feldhacker said. "He never went through any of the boxes (of receipts) or the club business."
The trial is expected to last about two weeks.