Hawaii law classifies embezzlement as theft but it must be proven that someone intentionally deprived a third party from payment for services or property. This includes through deception, through unauthorized control, and through deception, to name but a few. Embezzlement means that someone abuses a position of trust to take advantage of property for their own gain.
Hawaii Embezzlement Laws and Penalties
Under Hawaiian laws, the classification and punishment of theft offenses vary depending on the type of property and its value. The higher the value is, the more serious the crime becomes, and the harsher the associated penalties. As such:
- Petty theft, or theft in the fourth degree, is a petty misdemeanor. This happens when the value of the property is $100 or less, under Rev. Stat. § 708-833. The penalties for petty theft include up to 30 days in jail and/or a find of up to $1,000 under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 706-663, § 706-640(e).
- Theft in the third degree is a misdemeanor. This happens when the value is between $100 and $300 under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 708-832. The penalties for theft in the third degree include a prison sentence of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
- Theft in the second degree is a Class C felony. This happens when the value is over $300 but less than $20,000, as well as a number of other possibilities, all listed under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 708-831. The penalties include a prison sentence of up to five years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If this is a first offense, a minimum sentence may be imposed as may a fine of no less than $1,000 or twice the amount embezzled, which ever is greatest. This is listed under Rev. Stat. § 708-831(2).
- Theft in the first degree is a Class B felony. This happens if the value of the property is over $20,000, as well as a number of other possibilities, as listed under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 708-830.5. The penalties include a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
Hawaii Embezzlement Defenses
Under Hawaii law, the defense attorney may bring forward a number of defense, including:
- That the defendant did not know that the property belonged to a third party.
- That the defendant believed they were within their rights to control the property.
- That the original owner of the property is the spouse of the defendant, in which case they can rely on “household belongings”. This is listed under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 708-834.
Hawaii Embezzlement Statute of Limitations
Under HI Rev Stat § 701-108 (2013) the statute of limitations varies depending on the degree of the crime. However, it is often between six years and two years. The statute of limitations can be tolled if the defendant is out of the state or otherwise unable to stand trial.
Hawaii Embezzlement Cases
- A man from Hawaii pleads guilty in embezzlement case. Nigel Salmingo, a 31 year old Philippino son of a diplomat pleaded guilty to embezzling $300,000 from a local law firm where he worked. He faced 37 counts of money laundering, forgery, and first and second degree theft. He could face up to 10 years in prison for the theft and money laundering, as well as a further five years for other charges. However, it was expected that he would serve between 18 and 24 months.
- Former accountant sentenced to 10 years for embezzling $860,000. Justin Ha, a 47 year old former AMH Inc. accountant, has been found guilty of embezzling over $860,000 from the company. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He pleaded no contest against 85 counts of forgery and theft, accepting full responsibility and apologizing for his actions. Justin Ha also claims to have a gambling addiction for which he is seeking help. He has also been ordered to pay restitution.
- Ex-Kona nurse surrenders license. Michelle R. Prather, a former Kona nurse, was accused of embezzling prescription medication. She has voluntarily surrenders her nursing license for Hawaii for a period of five years, despite now being a resident of Hawaii. She had faced disciplinary actions at the Konu hospitals, details of which are confidential. Prather will also face criminal charges for her actions under Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 329-42.
- Civil lawsuit filed against former condo vice chairman for embezzlement. The Real Estate Commission Kawili Regency Association of Unit Owners have filed a civil lawsuit against a Maui real estate companies, ERA Pacific Properties, and SRH Inc. for allegedly embezzling $120,000 in funds. The individuals involved in the criminal element of the case have already been indicted, as have a number of others who have not been named as plaintiffs in the civil suit.
- Woman who embezzled $7 from employer faces sentencing. Lola Jean Amorin, a 69 uear old woman, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for embezzling around $7 million from The Arc of Hawaii between 1998 and 2017. This is believed to be the worst embezzlement case ever seen in Hawaii. Amorin has also been ordered to pay restitution to both the Department of Taxation and to The Arc of Hawaii. She initially plead not guilty but changed this to no contest.