Thursday, November 28, 2013


A treasurer was convicted and sentenced today for embezzling over $110,000 from church bank accounts. Fiatala Manu, 47, Lake Elsinore, pleaded guilty to one felony count each of embezzlement by fiduciary of trust, money laundering, falsifying records, and sentencing enhancements for property loss over $65,000. He was sentenced to one year in jail, two years of mandatory supervision, and was ordered to pay over $113,000 in restitution.

Between October 2011 and August 2012, Manu was a member of the First Samoan Christian Congregational Church in Santa Ana and served as an interim treasurer. The defendant was responsible for handling the church’s financial accounts, which included paying the bills.

Manu embezzled approximately $113,000 from the church by making unauthorized cash withdrawals, writing checks payable to himself, and transferring funds from the church bank accounts into his personal bank account. The defendant embezzled $96,000 solely from a deposit account set aside to build a new church. Manu also laundered the embezzled funds deposited into his personal bank account through cash withdrawal transactions and purchases made at an Indian gaming casino.

The defendant attended monthly church meetings and reported false financial reports, which included reporting false balances and funds in the church bank accounts.

In July 2012, an assistant treasurer was assigned to monitor various church accounts and learned that the account for the church building fund was closed in April 2012 with a zero balance. The discrepancy in funds was reported to the Santa Ana Police Department, who investigated this case and arrested the defendant on July 29, 2013.

Deputy District Attorney Chuck Lawhorn of the White Collar Crime Team prosecuted this case.

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