WAILUKU - A Kahului man with a history of committing financial crimes was taken into custody Jan. 29 to serve a one-year jail term for using a friend's credit card number to make nearly $5,000 in unauthorized charges.
"You basically took him for a ride on his credit card," 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo told Alexander DeGuzman Fiesta.
As part of his plea agreement, Fiesta, 33, was supposed repay the money at his sentencing Jan. 29.
But he said in court, "I couldn't come up with the whole entire money due to the fact that me and my family are already struggling."
Fiesta had pleaded no contest to a reduced misdemeanor charge of third-degree theft, with other charges dismissed.
The credit card charges were made from July to November 2010 after Fiesta had obtained the credit card number through his business to install Filipino television programming in the other man's business, said Deputy Public Defender Jared Brickey. While using the other man's credit card number through a mix-up involving a bookkeeper, Fiesta had believed the card was his and had given his name and address when he made the charges, Brickey said.
Because the owner hadn't checked on his account until months had passed and his personal checks bounced, the bank didn't refund most of the money to the owner, Brickey said.
"I feel terrible for him because he didn't catch it earlier," he said.
He said the resolution of the case had been delayed because of Fiesta's concerns about immigration consequences because he is not a permanent resident.
Brickey said Fiesta's prior convictions were different from the latest case.
But Deputy Prosecutor Justine Hura said the facts of Fiesta's 2008 convictions for felony theft and fraudulent use of a credit card in two cases showed his intent in his latest crime.
In one of his earlier cases, Fiesta used a woman's credit card number to make charges after she had used the credit card at a telemarketing network company run by Fiesta, Hura said.
She said that in the other case, Fiesta wrote fraudulent checks totaling more than $11,000 that he deposited or cashed at banks.
"This shows a pattern," Hura said.
Curtis Tom of Bank of Hawaii, which was a victim in the latest case, said that about 10 years ago, Fiesta had deposited more than $16,000 in checks written on his closed bank account at various bank branches, going back the next day to withdraw money before it was discovered that the checks weren't good.
Tom, who spoke in court, said he met with Fiesta. "He promised to repay the bank and then he disappeared," Tom said.
He said Fiesta would go into bank branches to open accounts on Saturdays, knowing the collection department was closed.
Hura read a statement from the man whose credit card Fiesta used. "I felt betrayed by someone I trusted for many years," the statement said. "He took advantage of me because of my kindness and good nature."
In addition to ordering that Fiesta serve the maximum jail term for the theft conviction, Loo ordered Fiesta to pay $4,037 in restitution to the credit card owner and $793 to Bank of Hawaii.
"You went on a shopping spree with this credit card," Loo told Fiesta. "You made some car payments, paid for an electricity bill and airline ticket - and the list goes on and on."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.