Former Lanikai Elementary Public Charter School volunteer pleads not guilty to stealing from school

By Cam Tran
Published On: Nov 04 2013 03:55:00 PM HST

A once-respected volunteer at Lanikai Elementary school is now wrapped up in a legal battle, accused of swiping big bucks from the P-T-S-A.

HONOLULU -

A former Lanikai Elementary Public Charter School volunteer pleaded not guilty Monday to stealing from the school.

Tonya Taylor is accused of embezzling  $50,000 from the school’s PTSA account.

Click here to watch Cam Tran's report.

In court, Taylor’s attorney told the judge his client waived a reading of the charge, entered a plea of not guilty and asked for a speedy trial.

Taylor, a former PTSA president, allegedly stole the money from the account over a span of four years.

Lanikai Elementary School officials said they spent much of that time wondering why PTSA money seemed to keep disappearing and why the numbers never added up.

They brought their concerns to the attorney general's office.

“The allegations span a number of years. Obviously there is a lot of money that flowed through this account and we’re just going back to see what accounting discrepancies there are at this point,” said defense attorney Victor Bakke.

The attorney general's office said some of the PTSA checks were written out to Taylor’s husband's account.

Taylor had full access to the group's money.

“She acted as the president of an organization and therefore, she had authority to withdraw monies from the account,” said prosecuting attorney Chris Young.

Taylor, 43, is charged with money laundering and first-degree theft. She waived a formal grand jury indictment Monday and will be free until her trial date on Jan. 6.

Bakke said his client is cooperating fully with the investigation.

“She’s been a dedicated volunteer in the community for over 15 years and she’s done a lot of good for this school and the community. We are working with the government to resolve this matter,” Bakke said.

If found guilty, Taylor could face up to 10 years in prison for each of the charges.

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