WAILUKU - A woman who had been a longtime bookkeeper for Lahaina Grill was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service and repay more than $100,000 she stole from the business during a six-year period.
Helen Perlas Kaai, 53, of Lahaina was placed on five years' probation as part of her sentence Thursday.
"This defendant took advantage of her position of trust that had been given her, and she methodically drained her employer of its financial strength," said Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas.
Perlas Kaai had pleaded guilty to first-degree theft of money stolen between January 2005 and November 2010.
The theft was discovered after an outside audit in the fall of 2010 found discrepancies, Temas said. He said that Perlas Kaai was told to preserve certain financial records but instead destroyed them, "which only caused further suspicion."
He said an in-depth audit was ordered and found thefts totaling $18,000 in 2005, $16,000 in 2006, $21,000 in 2007, $37,000 in 2008, $48,000 in 2009 and $42,000 in 2010 for a total loss of $182,838.
"As time went on, the defendant only became more bold," Temas said. "Most likely this was done to afford a lifestyle she could not otherwise afford."
Perlas Kaai had been hired by the business in 2000, Temas said. "They basically gave her the keys to the castle, when it came to the financial resources of the business," he said.
After Temas discovered financial assets that Perlas Kaai had, a plea agreement was struck recommending no jail and probation but requiring Perlas Kaai to pay $80,000 as a down payment toward restitution.
Temas said he received the $80,000 cashier's check - one of the largest presentencing payments obtained by the Maui County prosecutor's office - on Feb. 3.
Said defense attorney William Sloper: "Helen obviously showed a lot of good faith when she came to the change of plea hearing with an $80,000 check, trying to make the victim as whole as possible, as quickly as possible."
"She has been very remorseful from the start," Sloper said.
Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza followed the plea agreement in sentencing Perlas Kaai.
She was ordered to pay the remaining $102,838 in restitution at a rate of $500 a month.
Perlas Kaai also was ordered to write a letter of apology and to stay away from her former workplace.
She also was prohibited from working as a bookkeeper, accountant or cashier or being an officer of an organization in a position that would require her to handle money.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.