CEO of Japanese American Cultural & Community Center 'on the run' *

Greg Wiliis, hired in January as to lead downtown's Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, reportedly resigned this week after it was reported that he was convicted in France of theft, fraud and embezzlement. He was reportedly sentenced to five years in prison and may be on the run from an international arrest warrant. Oh, Willis's past was turned up in a simple Google search. Journalist Rachel Roh on Facebook:

Willis' apparent departure came only days after the JACCC's executive board reportedly confronted the former Toyota Motor Credit Corp. vice president of finance about the charges brought to their attention by several anonymous sources and cultural center staffers. According to a source who spoke under the condition of anonymity, Willis, 63, acknowledged that he was the same "Greg Willis" found guilty in absentia by a French Court of Offences in September 2009, fined 20 million euros and sentenced to five years in prison in connection with the 2006 closure of Thomé-Génot, a French auto supplier.

The French conviction, fine and jail sentence first came to light when a JACCC staffer simply searched for the name "Greg Willis" on the popular Internet search engine Google, sources said.

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, Willis and his assistant Catherine Zickfeld, 58, were sentenced in the Correctional Court of Rheims on Sept. 8, 2009 after being prosecuted for "possession of stolen property, bankruptcy by diversion, suspected embezzlement and abuse of corporate assets." Willis and Zickfeld operate the West Los Angeles firm Catalina Capital Advisors, LLC. According to public records, Willis is CEO of the firm while Ms. Zickfeld is chief financial officer. Ken Amano is listed as senior executive adviser of supplier operations.

Because Willis and Zickfeld failed to appear at their French trial, the pair have been subject to an international arrest warrant since 2008. Of the conviction, sentence and fine, Willis reportedly told the JACCC board only that he had been framed by associates in France.

Board chair Sandra Sakamoto will take over as executive director, the LA Weekly says.

The center bragged in January that Willis was hired following "an extensive national search."

Thursday update: The Rafu Shimpo adds details from French and Canadian media and about the headhunting firm that vetted Willis.

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