Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Thursday, March 2, 2000

player gets
2-year sentence

Shon Malani pleads guilty to
embezzling $458,000 in Hilo
while working at a credit union

By Susan Kreifels


He was destined to be a professional baseball player. But he ended up embezzling almost a half-million dollars to cover sports gambling debts after a shoulder injury ended his career.

Shon K.G. Malani, 27, was sentenced to two years in prison yesterday after pleading guilty to embezzlement.

Malani pleaded guilty to embezzling about $458,000 while a senior teller at the Hawaii Federal and State Employees Federal Credit Union in Hilo. He withdrew money from five accounts between November 1998 and April 1999, and concealed the transactions from the account holders, including an uncle.

Malani said he wanted to use his experiences to "become a role model for future generations," a statement that angered U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor.

She told Malani, who had been an all-star athlete at Hilo High School, to "stop trying to be a role model."

"At this point you are a thief," she lectured sternly. "Accept that you are a member of the human race and try to follow the rules like everybody else."

Malani must pay back $369,229 in restitution -- the amount of checks that couldn't be stopped in time and that was covered by insurance.

Gillmor received letters from 70-80 people, including the head baseball coach at the University of Southern California, where Malani had a full scholarship to play baseball. But he hurt his shoulder in 1993, ending expectations since childhood that he would be a baseball pro.

USC Coach Mike Gillespie wrote that Malani was the "antithesis of what he was convicted of" and "possessed all the qualities I would like to see in my own children," defense attorney Pamela Byrne said.

Sentencing guidelines set prison time between 21 and 27 months. Byrne had argued for a lesser sentence, saying the crimes were "aberrant behavior" and that Malani had shown "super acceptance of his responsibility."

But Gillmor said Malani's thefts and his illegal gambling since college showed a "pattern of behavior.

"If you continue to feel so special, you may end up a con man," she said. "The community needs to feel people in a position of trust will be held accountable."

Byrne said Malani turned to sports betting after his injury, and that he "must have experienced great depression."

Malani said his gambling debts totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars and that he had received threats. He checked himself into a treatment program for gambling addiction after he was caught stealing, saying he didn't know he was addicted.

Malani spoke on his own behalf during the sentencing, apologizing and thanking many people for their support. "I will do whatever needs to be done to pay back the credit union," he told the judge.

Malani is scheduled to go to federal prison April 12.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin