By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Kim's father, Dyoniscio, and grandfather, Escolastico, immigrated to Hawaii from Japan in 1941 to toil in the cotton fields. At the time, crop owners housed workers according to nationality. Because Japanese housing was full at the plantation where the pair worked, the crop owners told them to stay with the Filipinos.
In the Filipino camp, Dyoniscio met his bride, Theodoro. Her family too had moved from their native land to work in the cotton fields. Dyoniscio and Theodoro, who always communicated in English, married and lived in Honolulu. Donna was born on July 14, 1957, the youngest of three children. Her father, who inexplicably chose to serve in the U.S. Army after seeing his people forced into post-Pearl Harbor internment camps, instilled in his two boys and Donna a love of his adopted land. "My father is first and foremost an American, and he's very proud of that," Donna says. "My father always told me, 'If anybody asks you what your nationality is, Donna, you are an American. You might have a different heritage that is Filipino and Japanese. But first and foremost, you are an American.'"
Following high school, Kim fell in love with Denandio S. Parengit, a Hawaiian native whom she married in 1973. They had two children, Vanessa and Vince, both of whom now live in South Florida but declined to be quoted for this article. While a young mother, Kim found time to attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she studied computer science and graduated in 1977 with a 3.98 GPA. Then her marriage ended. On November 17, 1977, the couple's fourth anniversary, Kim says, she returned home early one afternoon to find her husband naked in bed with another woman. "He said nothing was going on," Kim remembers. 'What do you think I am,' I told him, 'stupid?'"
Kim remarried in 1980 to James Kim, a civilian employee of Pearl Harbor who worked as a draftsman. He was abusive, Kim claims, so she ended the marriage. Kim nevertheless chose to retain her ex-husband's last name.
In 1986, Kim decided to take Vanessa and Vince and stake out a new life in Southern California, where she landed a job at a small but growing company called TelWest Communications. The firm ventured into new business territory in 1993 after the federal government deregulated the U.S. telecom industry. It was one of many small start-ups that purchased blocks of long-distance minutes wholesale from MCI and then resold them to consumers.
Kim's tenure at TelWest was cut short in 1996. Her fiancé, Pat Sottile, worked as a customer service representative for U.S. Airways. In June 1995, the airline transferred Sottile to West Palm Beach. Kim and her two children moved with him.
While still new to South Florida, Kim sent her résumé to Telemarketing USA in Delray Beach. There, she interviewed with Arne Soreide, a six-foot-six Norwegian with light-brown hair and green eyes. He was charming and smart, Kim remembers thinking, and the two seemed to connect almost instantly.
Soreide hired Kim as floor manager and human resources director for Telemarketing USA, which solicited customers for long-distance providers. But that business, Soreide told Kim, was only temporary. He wanted to start his own long-distance company. "Arne brought me in because of my background, because I had a long-distance background," Kim would explain in a 2001 deposition.
In the spring of 1996, Soreide announced that the company would change its name to Nortel and resell long-distance minutes. "I felt like my dreams had been realized," Kim explains. "Arne was my mentor, and we were going to build a new company."
Arne Soreide studied hotel and restaurant management in Norway. The education helped him enter U.S. business life in the 1980s, when he opened a restaurant in Boston called Arne's. He was hardly sentimental about the eatery. When the Boston Globe asked in 1989 if he'd ever consider selling the place, Soreide quipped, "Everything is for sale for the right price." He told the Globe he'd be interested in returning to his first love: hotels.
Instead, he moved to Boca Raton with his wife, Lynn, a woman from Octono, Wisconsin, who was seven years his junior, and his two sons, Leif and Lars. Soreide became a mortgage broker at a time when Florida real estate was booming. That's when, according to public records, his questionable business dealings appear to have started.
On September 13, 1994, Arne and Lynn Soreide borrowed $1 million from Capital Bank to fund their new company, Royal Palm Mortgage. Although they apparently repaid most of the money quickly, the couple had defaulted on the loan by June 1995, leaving a balance of $95,691. Capital Bank sued and won a judgment in court.
On October 4, 1996, Florida sued Telemarketing USA, Royal Palm Mortgage, and Arne Soreide, seeking $23,552.23 in unpaid unemployment taxes. The court ruled in the state's favor, requiring Soreide to pay back the money and prohibiting him from employing anyone until the debt was satisfied.
In April 1994, Soreide met with Kravontka to refinance her Boca Raton condominium, according to state records. While reviewing her personal finances, the broker noticed the retiree had a significant amount of money in a securities account. He told her he could generate 10 to 12 percent profit on the money if she'd invest in his mortgages. After she handed over a check for $156,366, Soreide provided a letter on blank paper promising 10 percent interest. But Soreide's checks to the elderly woman began to bounce, according to state records, and Kravontka reported the problem to state authorities.