Youth soccer treasurer charged in $180K theft
HYSA official Riki Maeda expected to plead guilty
A Maui youth soccer official has been accused of stealing more than $180,000 from the league by writing unauthorized checks to himself and forging the signatures of league officials.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Honolulu charged Riki Maeda, treasurer of the Hawaii Youth Soccer Association Maui Youth League, with one count of bank fraud on Friday. The 57-year-old Pukalani man is expected to plead guilty when he appears in court on Nov. 1, according to court documents.
Maeda had access to HYSA Maui’s checking account at Bank of Hawaii and was tasked with collecting money remitted to the league and paying the league’s expenses.
Federal prosecutors said that from September 2014 to March of this year, Maeda diverted funds from the HYSA Maui bank account to his own by writing unauthorized checks made payable to himself. He also allegedly forged the signatures of HYSA Maui officials who oversaw the league’s account.
Prosecutors also said that Maeda wrote false information in the memo sections of checks to make it appear as though he were reimbursing himself for legitimate HYSA Maui expenses. One check, submitted to Bank of Hawaii on or about Dec. 11, 2014, was a $2,623 reimbursement for pins and coins and bore the forged signatures of “R.Y. and K.Y.”
Maeda is accused of stealing a total of $180,203.73 from the account.
A HYSA state official who asked to remain anonymous said that “we are glad the process is moving and hopefully, will come to a quick conclusion.”
The official also said that “irregardless of what is going on, HYSA Maui will continue to run.”
Neither Assistant U.S. Attorney Amalia Fenton nor HYSA state President Scott Keopuhiwa could be reached for comment Monday. Several HYSA Maui officials, including newly named president Kurt Ginoza, declined to comment on Maeda’s case.
Brent Nunes, director of coaching for Maui United Soccer Club, said he’s heard stories of youth sports embezzling on the Mainland but that it’s “unheard of here on Maui.”
“It’s unfortunate for the league and the kids, and just overall development of the HYSA league here on Maui,” Nunes said. “There’s a lot of people who have put in a lot of work over the years to get the league to where it’s at today. So this setback is very unfortunate for the kids.”
Nunes said that the December-to-February winter season for 8- to 12-year-olds still will be able to continue. Maui United has about 20 teams with about 200 youths ages 7 to 17 playing in all HYSA Maui leagues.
Depending on the year, each player pays a league fee of about $70 to $80, which goes to HYSA. Club fees, which stay with Maui United, vary from about $200 to $400 annually, he said.
Nunes said it’s “obviously a tough situation for everyone involved” but that he trusts the current board members will be able to move the league forward.
“I believe in the current board members and that they’re working hard to create the platform that we need here on Maui to just continue to grow the youth soccer environment,” he said.
John Harrisson, a longtime Maui referee and coach, said he had “known Riki as a soccer dad” and was surprised at the news. Harrisson and Maeda both lived Upcountry, where Maeda was a girls soccer coach. They had kids around the same age and both worked at the Maui Research and Technology Park in Kihei.
“I’d see him on the soccer field as our kids were progressing,” said Harrisson, who was recently named to the HYSA Maui board. “I knew he worked at the tech park and seemed like a respectable, upstanding guy who cared about his family.”
Harrisson said that earlier this year, some of the youth and adult referees had trouble getting paid on time. Harrisson became concerned when the parents of junior referees, who are mostly in middle and high school, began asking him why the kids hadn’t been paid weeks after the winter season had ended at the beginning of February.
As the father of two sons who were youth referees, Harrisson didn’t think it was fair to the kids “who volunteered their time and effort, sometimes under very trying circumstances.” He contacted the board about the payments in March and was told that the board was working on it.
“I am weary of letting youth referees and parents know that no, I have no idea when they will be paid; no, I don’t know why they haven’t; and no, I don’t know if Maui HYSA is even solvent,” Harrisson wrote to the board on March 8. “That these questions have even had to be raised in our community is shocking to me and not a little disheartening. It does not speak well to leadership or simple fiscal responsibility.”
Harrisson said the referees were finally paid in mid-April. He said the reports that Maeda stole from the league are “a very unfortunate blip when it comes to the soccer community.”
“I do think that solutions are on the horizon,” he said. “I do feel there are enough good people . . . that will get over this and get through it, and we need to start by drawing a line under what’s happened and move forward as positively as we can.”
In August, Maui police sought the public’s help in locating Maeda, who had last been seen the morning of Aug. 2 at his home in Pukalani. He was later found.
Maui Police Detective Gordon Sagun said he wasn’t sure whether Maeda’s disappearance was connected to the incident with HYSA Maui, since Sagun had been viewing it as a missing persons case at the time.
Sagun was assigned to Maeda’s case before it was taken over by federal prosecutors but declined to comment until Maeda went to court.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
** This story published on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, has been corrected.