FBI began bank probe in '05
|||PDF: The Corniel vs. ASB lawsuit|
|||PDF: The Lim vs. ASB lawsuit|
By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rick Daysog
The former American Savings Bank employee accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a 91-year-old customer said FBI agents have been investigating her case for more than a year.
Marilyn De Motta, an operations supervisor at American Savings' Hawai'i Kai branch before she was fired in February 2005, said FBI investigators questioned her in March 2005 about allegations she took money from Moanalua resident Ada Lim. The FBI interviewed her a second time earlier this year and the Internal Revenue Service joined that session, De Motta said.
An FBI spokesman yesterday would not confirm or deny that an investigation is under way.
Lim alleged in a lawsuit filed Aug. 2 that De Motta approached her and offered assistance with her finances. Lim also alleged De Motta instructed her to deposit $688,669 into an American Savings account. Lim alleged De Motta took $304,000 from Lim's account starting in 2004 and later got Lim to sign a document saying it was a loan paying 2 percent interest.
In a separate lawsuit also filed on Aug. 2, Bert Corniel, the former security director for American Savings, alleged that he interviewed De Motta in January 2005 while she was still working at the bank and she "confessed that she took Ms. Lim's money." Corniel also alleged the bank was "aware of this situation as early as July 2004, but no disciplinary action was taken." Corniel alleged the bank "attempted to cover up De Motta's fraud as a loan."
American Savings CEO Constance Lau on Wednesday said the bank did not "in any way, shape or form cover up anything" in a written response to allegations in the two lawsuits.
The bank said on Tuesday it is cooperating with the federal probe.
De Motta spoke to The Advertiser on Wednesday and said Lim authorized all the transfers of funds to De Motta.
De Motta said she initially didn't want to help Lim with her finances. But De Motta said she felt pressured by Lim, who made repeated phone calls to get her to help.
"I cannot believe that after I put her (Lim) in front of my family, she turned around and did this to me," De Motta said.
"I'm not saying that I'm a saint. So many times every night I ask myself why did I get attached? Why did I do it?"
De Motta, who worked for American Savings for 13 years, also faulted the bank for not adequately supervising her.
"It's not like me to blame someone else, but why didn't anybody hold me and slap me in the face at the time? Instead, they're watching me and throwing me away," De Motta said.
When asked why De Motta borrowed money from a 91-year-old customer, De Motta declined to answer.
"It will be proven in court why I did it," De Motta said. "I'm dying to tell people what happened."
De Motta has not been charged with a crime in this case.
John Knorek, American Savings Bank's attorney, said Wednesday the bank's code of conduct committee began an investigation of De Motta in January 2005 and fired her the following month.
Reach Rick Daysog at email@example.com.