WAILUKU - A Wailuku woman was ordered to pay back $23,710 she stole over a two-year period while she worked for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Kainoa Gonsalves, 40, also was ordered to perform 400 hours of community service as part of five years' probation Tuesday.
She had pleaded guilty to first-degree theft of the money from July 2009 to July 2011 while she worked as a clerk taking payments for commercial marine licenses at the DLNR office on Maui.
As part of her job, Gonsalves was supposed to collect the fees and deposit them into the bank, said Deputy Attorney General Christopher Young. Instead, he said, she took the cash payments and held onto checks. She resigned from the job after the thefts were discovered, Young said.
Deputy Public Defender Wendy Hudson said Gonsalves, who has no prior criminal record, "acted under strong provocation."
"Basically, she was trying to provide for her family," Hudson said. "It was basically to pay the rent, cover the bills."
She said a "perfect storm of events," including furloughs, a daughter's illness and becoming a single mother, affected Gonsalves' finances.
Hudson said Gonsalves understood that the felony conviction would remain on her record as part of a plea agreement with the state.
While Gonsalves has had a "very tough life over the years," Young said he was surprised by a portion of her letter to the court describing how the DLNR job was important to her.
"Yet over a two-year period, she stole from the very employer she - in her own words - felt was a good employer and that helped her with her life," Young said.
He said Gonsalves' fellow employees were affected.
Young read from DLNR Chairman William Aila Jr.'s letter to the court saying that employees who were directly affected "go about their work differently."
"There's less trust, more wariness," the letter said.
"It had (a) far-reaching effect, not only on the defendant but the employer that trusted her and put her in a position of trust," Young said.
Hudson said Gonsalves had already written a letter apologizing to the other employees.
She was ordered to make payments of $30 a month, which was determined to be an amount she could afford.
Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza followed a plea agreement in sentencing Gonsalves.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.