Bank employee steals $72,000 from LDS church account, Vava‘u

A bank teller working at Tonga Development Bank (TDB) branch on Vava‘u has been sentenced  after embezzling $$72,857.60 from a church account.

Tonga Development Bank. Photo/Kalino Lātū

‘Eva ‘Ailolo also known as ‘Eva ‘I Pomana Tau’ese, 28, stole from an account held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ (LDS) Wards of Ha’alaufuli, Ta’anea and Holeva.

She was caught after Duran Ormond, a manager of the LDS, Pacific Division based in Utah, USA, spotted a problem with the account, prompting an investigation.

The enquiry was in relation to cash deposits expected to be made into LDS Church account number l50325-S40.  

The unaccounted amount was $3,765.00 deposited on 28 December 2021, $1,580.40 on 5 September 2022, $4,260 on 3 October 2022, and $345 on 28 October 2022 at the TDB Vava’u Branch.

These deposits were cash from Sunday church tithe offerings collects by the LDS Church Wards of Ha’alaufuli, Ta’anea and Holeva.

The TDB head office investigated the matter and they realised they could not locate their copies of the receipts for the said deposits.

Upon internal investigation it was established ‘Ailolo was responsible for the missing money.

‘Ailolo wrote letters to her supervisors to apologise including one which to inform them that she wrongfully kept the receipts for the cash deposits she received, and she did not post the funds into these accounts. She kept this from everyone because she was scared but never attempted to destroy the receipts.

However, she alleged during her cross-examination that some contents of her letter of 2 December 2023 are false.

She showed no remorse for her action which is indicated by her not guilty plea and her allegation that her letters of apologies to TDB were coerced by TDB officer Kolokesa Paunga.

‘Ailolo has not repaid any of the aforesaid amount to the bank or customers.

As mitigating factors, Justice Langi considered ‘Ailolo’s no previous conviction. She is young and if given a second chance would take it towards rehabilitation.

Mrs Langi said the offending was out of character for she was a trustworthy employee at her current employment.

On the count of embezzlement ‘Ailolo was convicted and sentenced to one year and nine months imprisonment.

The final twelve months is suspended for two years on the following conditions:

  1. She is not to commit any further offences punishable by imprisonment for a period of 2 years.

The accused is to serve nine months of imprisonment.

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