Maui free-surfing phenom Clay Marzo was allegedly robbed of $400,000 over several years by a woman hired to keep his books, causing the surfer to lose his home and saddling him with $30,000 in debt, according to The Maui News.
Last week, the woman, Felicidad Rivera, who lives on Maui, was arrested and indicted on 13 charges of embezzling money from Marzo and his mother, Jill Marzo Clark. She pleaded not guilty. Marzo has also sued Rivera in bankruptcy court.
The “Just Add Water” star and NSSA title winner considered Rivera a close friend, and the whole fiasco has “really impacted Clay greatly,” his mom said.
“It’s been a year of trying to get to this point,” Marzo’s mom told The Maui News. “It’s bittersweet; it’s awful that she did what she did because she was like a family member. She was close with us and worked with me for a long time…I’ve been sick to my stomach since Friday when she was arrested,” she said.
Marzo, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, and his mother, who has severe dyslexia, hired Rivera in 2008 and relied heavily on her to keep their books. But Rivera apparently exploited their conditions and their trust. Starting in 2010, Rivera allegedly wrote herself nearly 200 checks from Marzo and his mom’s accounts and paid off $75,000 of her own credit card debt.
Rivera is accused of falsifying QuickBooks entries to hide her embezzlement. But last year, that changed when Marzo’s mom found a charge on her Macy’s card for a designer bag delivered to Rivera’s address, and alerted police.
“I leaned heavily — apparently too heavily — on her and part of me feels pretty stupid because how could this go on for so long?” she told a reporter. “But when you don’t understand numbers and hire someone to do numbers, how do you know? It looked to me like it started off little and then she figured out she could do it and it became more and more until she got sloppy.”
A court trial is slated for December in Honolulu.
Two months ago, Marzo emerged from years of occasional media coverage to nab fourth place in the Padang Padang Cup. He is apparently at work on a film expected to drop in 2018. After a years-long stint in Western Australia, Marzo is living in Kahana on Maui.