Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, April 26, 2002

Money missing from Lana'i bank accounts

By Frank Cho
Advertiser Staff Writer

Police are investigating possible forgery and theft in connection with the disappearance of thousands of dollars from customers' accounts at the Lana'i branch of Bank of Hawaii.

Bank officials said they are cooperating with police while conducting their own internal investigation into the missing money.

"If we find customers experienced losses as a result of inappropriate activity, we will certainly do what is necessary to make good," said Stafford Kiguchi, a spokesman for the bank, one of only two on Lana'i.

Branch manager Bel Zamora said yesterday she has resigned but has done nothing wrong. "I cannot talk about it," Zamora said. "I resigned under good terms with the bank."

The investigation comes as a blow to this small and tightly-knit community where both jobs and money are hard to come by.

Questions began to arise when customer Miguel Magaoay, 65, did not receive statements for his Bank of Hawaii retirement account and called the bank. The bank in turn notified Maui police.

In preparation for his taxes, Magaoay had called the bank and gotten a copy of his IRA statement and discovered $7,800 appeared to be missing. The bank would not comment on Magaoay's specific case, but Magaoay said he has since been reimbursed by the bank. Magaoay said he knew of other people on Lana'i who also appeared to be missing money from their bank accounts.

Lana'i resident Prisca Lamello said yesterday that she noticed more than $3,000 missing from her account at Bank of Hawaii's Lana'i branch.

"We put $12,000 into a timed-deposit account around 1998," said Lamello. "But we didn't get a statement for more than a year. Then around 2001, we checked and there was only $9,000 left."

Lamello said bank officials told her the money had been moved into another savings account. Lamello, 56, said she was too afraid to say anything and does not know what happened to the money after that.

Kiguchi said that despite the numerous controls the bank has in place to prevent and detect fraudulent activity, instances do occur on rare occasions.

"The controls do, however, eventually detect and stop the fraudulent activity," Kiguchi said. "But in no instance would a customer ever be financially harmed. The bank will always ensure that the customer is fully reimbursed."