Roberta Wong sentenced in scam


By JOHN BURNETT

Tribune-Herald staff writer

A 73-year-old Hilo woman was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu for bilking 14 investors of more than $600,000 in an international oil investmant scam.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi sentenced Roberta Beck “Buddy” Wong to three years supervised release, and jail time already served, about eight months. In a deal with prosecutors, Wong pleaded guilty to wire fraud on May 31. In exchange for her plea, 27 other charges were dropped. Wong was also ordered to make restitution of $606,774.40 to those she swindled.

Wong, who could have been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on the charge she pleaded guilty to, has a right to appeal the judgment within 14 days.

According to the original indictment, starting in December 2003, Wong “and others known and unknown to the grand jury” devised “a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money from others … by means of materially false pretenses, representations and promises, as well as omissions of material facts … .” Wong “held herself out to various prospective investors as being associated with the ‘Rockefeller Foundation’” and as “a successful person with numerous ties to investment programs and prominent people in Africa.” It also states that Wong told investors that for putting their money “in oil programs or investments” they would “gain a return of approximately eight times or more on their original investment.”

According to the sentencing minutes, Wong addressed the court, but the document didn’t state what she told the judge. It did, however, state that two victims, identified only by their initials, kicked more than $100,000 into Wong’s scheme.

Wong is the matriarch of a prominent Hilo baseball family. Her son, Kaha, is a successful baseball coach and hitting instructor. One grandson, Kolten, is an infielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and played in this year’s World Series. Another, Kean, is a minor leaguer in the Tampa Bay Rays system.

The prosecutor in the case, Assistant Attorney Les Osborne, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment on Thursday.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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