Summarized by Kent Larsen
Former BYU Football Player on Trial in Texas for Theft of $200,000
EL PASO, TEXAS -- Mekeli T. Ieremia, former BYU football player, youth camp
director and school administrator is now on trial for theft of more than
$200,000 and misappropriation of fiduciary property in the latest of
Ieremia's brushes with the law and questionable schemes. Both of the charges
are first-degree felonies that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Ieremia is charged in connection with his responsibilities as director of
risk management for the Socorro Independent School District. The job is
responsible for maintaining the district's insurance policies and limiting
potential losses from uncontrollable events. But when the district's books
wouldn't balance in 1998, the district called in an auditor to find a $2
million discrepancy, which led to Ieremia.
"We think the evidence is going to show in this case that Mr. Ieremia
violated all the trust and responsibility that was placed on him," said
prosecutor Kyle Lasley. Prosecutors claim that Ieremia was funnelling money
from the workers compensation fund to four companies owned by the same
Ieremia is also the defendant in two lawsuits over youth camps that he
founded and run in Samoa and in Hawaii. Parents of youths in the camps claim
that Ieremia didn't provide the services he claimed and that the youths were
not properly cared for, and in the case of Samoa were abandoned by the camp.
The New Hope Academy in Samoa came to the attention of US government
officials when five youths were recovered there, allegedly abandoned by the
camp. The Aloha Youth Academy in Laie, Hawaii, the other camp Ieremia owned,
was never licensed by the state of Hawaii, and was criticized by former
employees who claimed the youths there were improperly cared for.
Both camps were marketed to Utahn and LDS parents, using Ieremia's
reputation as a BYU football player.
Officer of controversial youth camps on trial for stealing from Texas schools
Honolulu HI Star-Bulletin 3Aug00 D2
From staff and wire reports