Ex-finance director of Soka University of America pleads guilty in $1.7 million embezzlement

United States Attorney's Office Central District of California/June 11, 2008

The former finance director and chief investment officer of Soka University of America has pleaded guilty to federal charges of embezzling Soka's funds over the course of seven years and funneling the money through sham Soka bank accounts that he created.

Kiyoshi Hatanaka, 52, of Aliso Viejo, pleaded guilty Monday afternoon in federal court in Santa Ana before United States District Judge James V. Selna.

As the finance director and CIO at the school, Hatanaka had access to Soka's bank accounts and investment accounts. He also had responsibility for managing Soka's investments. Accordingly, Hatanaka had the ability to cause unauthorized transfers and withdrawals to be made from Soka's bank accounts and accounts in which its investments were held, according to an indictment previously filed.

Beginning in 1999 and continuing to early January 2006, Hatanaka caused approximately $1,756,000 to be transferred from Soka's bank and investment accounts to bank accounts he had established at California Bank and Trust. Hatanaka withdrew those funds from the accounts that he controlled, and then used those funds for his own benefit.

In this case, Soka discovered the embezzlement when suspicious activity was reported to it by its bank. Soka contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which launched the investigation that led to charges being filed against Hatanaka.

The embezzlement count carries a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in federal prison. Judge Selna is scheduled to sentence Hatanaka on August 25. Hatanaka has agreed to make full restitution to Soka.

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