WAILUKU - A Kahului woman has been sentenced to an 18-month jail term and ordered to pay nearly $800,000 in restitution, most of it to two people that she defrauded by promising a return on a foreign investment.
Cynthia Sablas, 61, also was placed on five years' probation as part of her sentence Wednesday.
"I don't know how you can live with yourself," 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo told Sablas. "You took money from them again and again and again. There were numerous transactions. You kept asking for money, and they gave it to you. They believed you. They trusted you."
Sablas had pleaded no contest to five counts of first-degree theft, second-degree theft, second-degree forgery and negotiating a worthless instrument.
Most of the charges were for money she took from April 2007 to March 2008, according to court records.
During the nearly yearlong period, a woman gave Sablas $533,000 from her children's college fund, while a man gave Sablas $120,000 from his retirement fund.
In another case, Sablas deposited an altered check into her bank account in July 2010, leading to a $114,979 loss for the bank, according to court records.
"It's difficult to understand how any of this happened," said Deputy Public Defender William "Pili" McGrath.
He said Sablas became involved in a Nigerian scam, but with other people's money that she was sending to Africa. At least $100,000 was diverted for Sablas' personal use, he said.
"On the one hand, the victims have suffered probably life-changing losses," McGrath said. "The thought of not being able to send a child to college could be devastating."
But he asked that any jail term be suspended because of Sablas' health issues.
In court, Sablas asked Deputy Prosecutor Lewis Littlepage "to convey my sincere apology" to the victims "for the situation that occurred."
Littlepage, who argued for the 18-month jail term, said Sablas was "an active part of this scam."
He noted that from the first $50,000 she received, she kept $46,000 for herself. He said she similarly skimmed money for herself from later amounts that the victims loaned her.
"She was just taking her cut right off the top," Littlepage said.
"This is total and outright greed," he said. "This was no mistake. She lied. She lied to the victims. She lied to the police. She took deliberate actions for her own greed. I don't think the court or the defendant can ever make the victims whole.
"Their loss is devastating."
Sablas was ordered to pay $767,979 in restitution.
Loo denied Sablas' request for a chance to keep the convictions off her record.
After Sablas said she wanted to be able to be with her elderly mother in her final days, Loo allowed Sablas to turn herself in June 29 to begin serving the jail term.