Waiʻanae Man Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $527,000 and Taking Bribes Involving CARES Act Funds
A Waiʻanae man pled guilty in federal court on Friday to embezzling more than $500,000 from the nonprofit AmeriCorps, and agreeing to accept a bribe for the administration of CARES Act funds.
Hanalei Aipoalani, 42, pled guilty to embezzlement and agreeing to take a bribe. Both charges carry a statutory maximum of 10 years and financial penalties.
The announcement was made by Channing D. Phillips, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia; Eli S. Miranda, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Honolulu Field Office; and Deborah Jeffrey, Inspector General of AmeriCorps.
FBI investigators say the man conspired to enrich himself with pandemic relief funds intended for at-risk communities, by stealing the identities of legitimate volunteers and submitting falsified documents to the government.
AmeriCorps is a federally funded network of national service programs that address critical community needs like increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty, sustaining national parks, preparing for disasters, and more.
AmeriCorps’ national service members commit to service for a set period of time, usually a year, in exchange for a living allowance, funding to be used for college tuition, and other benefits.
Aipoalani’s sentencing is set for June 24.
“The United States Department of Justice will prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, those individuals who choose to abuse their positions of power to enrich themselves at the cost of the American people,” said Acting US Attorney Phillips.
“The defendant conspired to enrich himself with taxpayer dollars intended to support at-risk communities in Hawai’i, he victimized legitimate volunteers and others by stealing their identities to perpetrate multiple fraud schemes, and he submitted falsified documentation and certifications to the government, all to the detriment of their community. Our investigation also disrupted an ongoing scheme to steal much-needed pandemic relief funds. I commend US Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their partnership on this case,” said Deborah Jeffrey, Inspector General of AmeriCorps
“Programs such as AmeriCorps are designed to impact the nation in the most positive ways. Their goal is to help others and to meet the critical needs of the communities they serve”, said Special Agent in Charge Eli S. Miranda. “AmeriCorps trusted Hanalei Aipoalani with their mission in the State of Hawai’i and were ultimately betrayed. Aipoalani exploited his position and intentionally stole funds meant for the betterment of the community for his own selfish entitlements. The FBI will never stand for this and will enthusiastically identify and pursue anyone who violates the public’s trust.”