The former treasurer of a Samoan Christian church in Santa Ana was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail for embezzling more than $110,000 from church bank accounts and then gambling it away.
Fiatala Manu, 47, of Lake Elsinore, on Friday pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement by fiduciary of trust, money laundering, falsifying records as well as sentencing enhancements for property loss over $65,000.
Santa Ana's First Samoan Christian Congregational Church was saving funds for a new church building when Manu, the interim treasurer, began his thefts in October 2011 that continued over the next 10 months. He did this by writing checks to himself and making withdrawals from the small church's accounts instead of paying their bills.
The thefts were discovered by an assistant treasurer who noticed the money missing while checking the books. Manu went into court accused of having blown most of the church money at Indian gaming casinos.
Fortunately, he did not gamble any more with his future. Without the guilty plea, he was looking at up to nearly 12 years in state prison. Besides the year in jail, Manu was sentenced to two years of mandatory supervision and ordered to pay more than $113,000 in restitution.