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Probes launched into alleged DOE payroll scam

It’s a tale of an alleged scandal that took place over a span of three years and is now in the hands of local law enforcement officials. And because it involves the Department of Education, the money involved belongs to the feds who will most likely step in and take action.


The story starts five years ago in 2008 when a local teacher resigned from her job to relocate off island. The teacher departed the territory not knowing whether she was going to move back home at some later time or not. Little did she know that in her absence, someone would still be receiving her paychecks and direct depositing the funds into an unknown account at Bank of Hawaii, with the funds being used for a payroll deduction for a loan payment at ANZ Bank belonging to someone else.


(For the teacher to still be receiving a paycheck, it means that someone was still turning in time cards in her name).


According to the teacher, she only spent a year off island before deciding to move back to the territory in 2009. At the time, she wanted to return to teaching so she filled out an application but she wasn’t called in for an interview until 2011. She was later re-hired in 2012 - or so she thought.


Unbeknownst to her, during this whole time, her name was still active in the system as if she had never resigned. That means a paycheck was being issued in her name every two weeks.


The teacher told Samoa News that she went to both ANZ Bank and Bank of Hawaii to inquire about whose account and loan her paychecks were going towards but she was told by bank employees that — per bank policies — they could not give her that information, as she wasn’t the legal owner of the bank account or loan.


The teacher first noticed the discrepancy when she received her first bi-weekly paycheck after returning to teaching last year. She said that on payday, she received only a check stub with an indication that her actual check was already direct deposited into a BOH account and an ANZ loan payment was cut from it.


But the teacher didn’t have a bank account or loan with either of the two local banks.


She complained about not knowing what was going on and as a result, she was reimbursed for that particular check — but there was still no explanation about who had been receiving her checks for the time period between 2008 and 2012, when she wasn’t working for DOE.


Payroll employees allegedly told the teacher that she never completely resigned, as her name was still active in the system and she had been getting checks issued in her name since 2008. The teacher was dumbfounded. She knew someone was using her name and social security number to receive the checks, as the pay stub she was given during her first pay period back with DOE indicated that she had accumulated 112 hours of sick leave — unheard of for someone who just started work and was only on the clock for two weeks.


Even more baffling, the teacher said that when she went to DOE to get her identification card that is necessary for her to swipe in and out, she was asked why she needed a new ID card when, according to the system, she was hired in 2011.


The teacher then presented the DOE official with a letter that showed the effective date of her employment (SY 2012), although she was told that her name was already active in the DOE system.


The teacher has since gotten married and has insisted numerous times on getting her last name changed but to this day, her paychecks are still being issued under her maiden name. She says she doesn’t know why it’s taking so long for them to change her last name, as she has already presented them with a marriage certificate.


And if that wasn’t enough, it’s been two pay periods since the teacher has received a paycheck and she is “still waiting.”


She said DOE representatives told her that the blame lies with them, as they were busy with the recent education summit and her evaluation needs to be renewed.


She said she assumed she was going to get paid this past Tuesday, the day after payday, but when she went to the payroll office, she was told that the set number of work days she can work before having to renew her paperwork are over and someone from DOE has to process and approve the new paperwork. According to her, everything was approved this past Tuesday and she is hoping to finally get paid today.


This past Monday, the teacher was called in to speak to DPS investigators, and Samoa News understands the matter has since been made known to the AG’s Office.


Samoa News should point out that this same teacher attended a workshop/induction last year for DOE and during the presentation regarding DOE finances; she spoke out openly about her situation. At the time, she was told to bring in her social security number and other pertinent information so they (DOE) can look into the matter and they assured her that they would “give her a call” when everything was sorted out.


To this day, according to the teacher, she still hasn’t gotten an explanation as to who was using her name to get paychecks and how this could have gone on for so many years undetected.


Samoa News understands the Office of Fraud and Prevention Investigation has been notified of the case and they too will be launching their own investigation.