WAILUKU - A Kula man was placed on five years' probation Wednesday for his role in what a deputy prosecutor called a "culture of theft" involving employees at the Sears warehouse two years ago.
Patrick Janosko, 22, was given a chance to keep a second-degree theft conviction off his record, with 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo citing the defendant's youth, lack of prior record and cooperation with law enforcement.
"It sounds like your heart is now in the right place," Loo told Janosko. "It sounds like you gave in to what everybody else was doing, and now you know the difference between right and wrong."
Defense attorney Cary Virtue said Janosko is among what may be about a dozen co-defendants in the investigation involving the theft of merchandise from the Sears warehouse between May 26, 2009, and May 26, 2010.
Janosko was allowed to plead no contest to second-degree theft instead of a more serious first-degree theft charge "in large part because Patrick really is a good person who has a good heart and cooperated 110 percent with the detective," Virtue said.
He said Janosko returned more than $29,000 in stolen merchandise. He now works full time at another job, Virtue said.
"Patrick made a great mistake," Virtue said. "He's sorry for his actions. He took responsibility for it right away. He's young. He has his life ahead of him. I think he has great potential to be a contributing member of our community."
"I'll never do this again. I guarantee you," Janosko told the judge.
The thefts were discovered in an internal investigation showing hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory missing or unaccounted-for, said Deputy Prosecutor Kenton Werk.
"There was a culture that was accepted, that the Sears employees could help themselves to whatever they wanted to take home," Werk said.
He said Janosko admitted his participation, which was "key" because of his job.
Janosko had access to computer codes and could show that items had been damaged or returned by customers so merchandise was "going out of the warehouse under the illusion of being appropriate," Werk said.
He said Janosko admitted taking 38 items including electronics, appliances and furniture valued at more than $30,000.
He also cooperated with law enforcement "in exposing this ongoing culture of theft within the Sears warehouse," Werk said.
As part of his plea to the lesser charge, Janosko agreed to testify if necessary against co-defendants, Werk said.
Loo said it was ironic that Janosko' had the job title of PMT, or preventive maintenance technician, while he let other employees take merchandise. "I thought PMT stood for pretty major thief," she said.
If not for his cooperation and return of about 90 percent of the merchandise he stole, Loo said, Janosko would have been sent to jail.
Janosko was ordered to pay $1,142 in restitution.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.