6-month stint for man who stole from family

WAILUKU – A man who stole more than $140,000 in artwork and other valuables while being allowed to live in his grandfather’s house in Kaanapali was sentenced to a six-month jail term.

James Nitsos, 27, also was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine as part of four years’ probation.

“This is a theft case, but it’s deeper than that,” 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen said in imposing the sentence Oct. 30. “When you look at the way you treat a family member who you claim to love – it’s like this is nothing.”

Nitsos had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree theft of paintings, vases, televisions and other valuables from October 2012 to June 19.

Nitsos had been living at the home for several years before his grandfather became ill with Alzheimer’s disease and was moved off island, said Deputy Prosecutor Justine Hura. She said that Nitsos apparently had a serious drug problem and got into debt even though he was living in the home without having to pay rent.

“He was in such distress he needed to sell these paintings for basically pennies on the dollar,” Hura said.

The grandfather’s guardian wanted to see Nitsos get help, she said.

Nitsos was “self-medicating with pills” to deal with pain from an accident, said Deputy Public Defender Jim Rouse.

Bissen said reports indicated that Nitsos had been using methadone before the motorcycle accident.

“It wasn’t enough that you were allowed to live free in what must have been a beautiful home in Kaanapali for 10 years,” Bissen told Nitsos. “You found a need to sell off your grandfather’s valuable artwork so you could buy drugs or repay debt. It was his life’s work. I don’t know how somebody does this to family.”

Family members paid to recover some of the stolen artwork, which was valued at more than $140,000.

Nitsos was given credit for more than four months he has already spent in jail. He was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs, including medical marijuana, as part of his probation.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.