The chief financial officer of a Christian school in Hawaii has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $3 million from the school.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that Pablo M. Rivera pleaded guilty to wire fraud for lying about the cost of construction and maintenance projects at Youth With a Mission’s University of Nations campus in Kailua-Kona.
Prosecutors say Rivera stole the money between September 2014 and January 2017. The evidence showed that he inflated the cost of work done by a contractor and then withdrew the difference from the contractor’s bank account. The contractor told the FBI that he put Rivera’s name on the company’s account after Rivera told him it was necessary to comply with Hawaii regulations. Rivera told a company official that money from the withdrawals went to pay subcontractors.
Rivera will be sentenced in August. He has been ordered to pay back the $3,096,241 he stole and will forfeit money and property the government identified as proceeds of his crime.
The forfeited items include Rivera's home in Colorado, a condominium in Waikoloa, a sport utility vehicle in Colorado, $71,790 in bank and trading accounts, $11,322 in cash and a precious-gem ring. He also will forfeit items that were in a safe deposit box in Colorado, including two diamond rings, five loose cut diamonds and 114 grams of gold dust and gold nuggets.
Rivera’s lawyer had said in court that Rivera, who lives in Colorado, came to Hawaii in January to tell the school’s board that he had stolen money from the school. but prosecutors say he lied to the board by contending that he stole only $500,000.
When school officials reported the theft to the FBI, they estimated Rivera had stolen between $1.5 million and $2 million. By late February the government’s tally was up to $2.5 million.
The $3,096,241 is the amount all parties, including Rivera, agree that he stole.
University of the Nations operates in 650 locations in 160 countries, according to its web site.