Jury convicts ex-secretary of stealing from churches
LIHUE » Daria Bruce, longtime secretary of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Kalaheo, was found guilty in Circuit Court of stealing money from two churches' donations.
After a three-week trial and two days of deliberation, a jury found this week that Bruce, 62, diverted nearly $85,000 from the churches, first to the Filipino Catholic Club and then to herself.
Bruce, 62, could receive up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine when she is sentenced Dec. 4, as well as being forced to pay restitution.
County Deputy Prosecutor Mauna Kea Trask said Bruce was secretary of Holy Cross Church in Kalaheo and Sacred Heart Parish in Eleele from 1998 until 2005. She routinely commingled funds between the church and the Filipino Catholic Club, of which she was treasurer and president. Then, prosecutors said, she allegedly wrote checks from the club's account to herself.
Bruce denied any wrongdoing. She said she was untrained as a bookkeeper and, because checks made out to the church were supposed to be for the Filipino Catholic Club, she deposited them into the proper account.
If there was theft, her lawyer William Feldhacker argued, someone else did it.
Bruce was fired from her secretarial position in 2005 when Bill Burton, business manager of the Honolulu Diocese, found discrepancies between the money in the collection plate and the money in the bank, Trask added.