Mitchell Keawe Jr., better known as Kimo Keawe, has been indicted on federal charges for allegedly embezzling thousands of dollars.
Keawe was once the executive director of the now-defunct Hawaii Centers for Independent Living (HCIL). The mission of the non-profit was to provide services and programs to the disabled so they can live an independent life.
HCIL could be found on Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, Molokai, Kauai and Guam.
But employees began to notice problems with the organization and shared their concerns with a former employee, Roxanne Bolden.
“Some of the concerns they brought to me were irregularities with falsification of identities and financial irregularities as well,” said Bolden.
Complaints were forwarded both to investigators with the state and the U.S. Department of Education, the federal agency which is the primary source of funds for HCIL.
The investigations led to an indictment by a federal grand jury, which charged Keawe with three counts of theft from an organization receiving federal funds. According to the indictment, Keawe embezzled $179,222.46 sometime between October 2011 and December 2013.
KHON2 learned that Keawe resigned in November 2013.
HCIL was last located on Vineyard Boulevard and shut its doors at the end of 2013. But before then, the disabled saw a drop in programs and services, and turned to Bolden, who now heads Aloha Independent Living Hawaii.
“When I asked the Hawaii State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (housed within the Hawaii State Department of Human Services) what was going on, all I was told was that they (HCIL) was being investigated and they could not give me any further information,” said Bolden.
Vocational Rehabilitation oversaw one of the two federal grants to HCIL.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services told KHON2 that its “investigators turned over the case to federal investigators and the case remains under federal litigation.”
Keawe has not been placed under arrest. He has been ordered to appear before U.S. Magistrate Barry Kurren in U.S. District Court in Honolulu on Feb. 12 to answer to the charges.
The statutory maximum penalty for these charges is 10 years in prison per count.