Bank data subpoenaed in alleged $600K theft
By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rick Daysog
A federal grand jury has subpoenaed documents from American Savings Bank to investigate the alleged theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from an elderly bank customer and the bank's response to the reported theft.
The 23-member panel issued a blanket subpoena earlier this month for copies of company e-mails, financial statements and other records, people familiar with the investigation said. The sources asked not to be identified because the investigation is ongoing.
The grand jury's subpoena comes on the heels of two civil lawsuits filed on Aug. 2, one by a 91-year-old bank customer, Ada Lim of Moanalua, and the other by the bank's former director of security, Bert Corniel.
The suits charged that Marilyn De Motta, an operations supervisor at the American Savings' Hawai'i Kai branch, took $600,000 from Lim. The suits also alleged that the bank tried to cover up the theft.
American Savings CEO Constance Lau said in a written statement last month that the bank "did not in any way, shape or form cover up anything."
The grand jury's investigation is not limited to Lim's theft allegations but also is examining American Savings' conduct, according to the sources.
The panel is an investigative grand jury, meaning that it was convened to gather evidence and may not file criminal charges depending on what it finds.
When asked for comment on the grand jury, American Savings spokeswoman Dawn Dunbar said in an e-mail, "While we cannot speak on behalf of the FBI, it is important to note that American Savings Bank has been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with all governmental authorities."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Johnson, who prosecutes federal crimes in Hawai'i, could not be reached for immediate comment.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case, but FBI agents last month seized Corniel's computer and interviewed Corniel and other witnesses.
Lim settled her lawsuit with the bank on Sept. 18. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Lyle Hosoda, attorney for Lim, said in a news release at the time that "Ms. Lim recognizes that this was a unique situation and both parties are fully satisfied that the settlement is both amicable and fair."
Corniel's suit is still pending.
De Motta's attorney, Emmanuel Guerrero, declined comment yesterday on the grand jury investigation.
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Established in 1925, American Savings is the state's third largest financial institution with $6.7 billion in assets. The bank is a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.
American Savings recently retained high-profile Washington, D.C., attorney Michael Bromwich to assist the bank with the federal investigation.
Bromwich of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, is a former inspector general at the U.S. Department of Justice and was part of the federal government's legal team that prosecuted Iran-Contra figure Oliver North in the late 1980s.
Bromwich did not respond to an e-mail yesterday seeking comment on the grand jury investigation.
Reach Rick Daysog at email@example.com.