HONOLULU — A former Hawaii school official who authorities said stole more than $3 million from University of the Nations was sentenced to more than nine years in prison.
The nondenominational Christian school’s former Chief Financial Officer, Pablo Rivera, was sentenced on Monday for wire fraud, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported .
Authorities said he stole about $3.1 million between September 2014 and January 2017.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael David Nammar said Rivera, a Yale graduate, spent the money on a gold mine in Sierra Leone, a home in Colorado, a condominium in Waikoloa, a sport utility vehicle, loose diamonds, spa treatments and plastic surgery. Rivera also lost some of the money in the stock market.
Rivera, 42, acknowledged during his sentencing that he “became a liar” and needs help.
The judge who sentenced him said she gave him a break so he can start earning money sooner to begin paying back what he stole.
The maximum penalty Rivera could have faced was 20 years in prison. The advisory U.S. sentencing guidelines suggested a prison term of more than 11 years.
Kona campus director Paul Childers said in November that University of Nations is a community of volunteers. Before school officials realized Rivera was the cause of the campus’ dire financial situation, they started charging volunteers for food, membership fees and increased the charge for staff housing.
“Me and my wife, we put in more than we could afford,” Childers said. “But it wasn’t just me; it was devastating to me to find out that this activity was happening with young families giving far beyond their means.”
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com