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‘Catastrophe of thieving’ leads to 5 years in prison

WAILUKU — A man who went “beyond a crime spree” while stealing mopeds, credit cards from a rental car and iPads from an elementary school was sentenced to five years in prison.

Joshua Yamashita, 28, of Wailuku had pleaded no contest to 25 charges in seven cases for crimes occurring from September 2017 to May 2018.

Second Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo noted May 31 that as many as 15 people were victimized by the crimes.

“This is beyond a crime spree,” she said. “This is like a catastrophe of thieving.”

In the seven criminal cases, Yamashita had pleaded no contest to two counts of unauthorized possession of confidential personal information, third-degree promoting of a dangerous drug, possessing drug paraphernalia, two counts of unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, two counts of first-degree unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, third-degree theft, third-degree criminal property damage, four counts of theft of a credit card, two counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, five counts of second-degree theft, third-degree theft, fourth-degree criminal property damage, two counts of fourth-degree theft.

Other charges were dismissed in exchange for his pleas.

A plea agreement between the defense and prosecution recommended four years’ probation for Yamashita and a one-year jail term with the opportunity to seek early release into a residential drug treatment program.

Yamashita had applied to enter a long-term drug facility on the Waianae coast of Oahu, said Deputy Public Defender Ben Lowenthal.

In a sentencing memorandum asking the court to follow the plea agreement, he said Yamashita began using drugs and alcohol in his late teens and early 20s and was using crystal methamphetamine daily by the time he was 23.

“All of his offenses can be explained by his rampant drug addiction,” the memorandum said.

“I just want to apologize to all the people I hurt, my family and my kids,” Yamashita said in court. “I’m a drug addict. I need help.”

Judge Loo noted that Yamashita’s crimes included stealing mopeds in November 2017 and May 2018 and the theft of 16 iPads that were missing after a burglary at Lihikai Elementary School in Kahului on Oct. 21, 2017.

He also was convicted of stealing two Versace sunglasses from Macy’s and breaking into a vehicle at Kaanapali Alii in October 2017 to steal a surf kite.

In April 2018, when Yamashita broke into a rental car at Kealia Beach, taking belongings including credit cards that were used at Walmart, Minit Stop and Home Depot, he ruined a visitor’s vacation, Loo said.

“If you were addicted to methamphetamine, like the methamphetamine bunny, you just keep going and stealing and thieving and you don’t stop,” Loo told Yamashita.

She said Yamashita completed the Maui Drug Court program of supervision and treatment in 2015 before reoffending.

He was on probation for unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle in a 2017 case when he committed the more recent crimes, court records show.

“You were given opportunity after opportunity after opportunity,” Loo said to Yamashita. “If you don’t take care of your methamphetamine problem, this is what happens. You victimize a lot of innocent people.

“Even though you’re addicted to methamphetamine, it does not excuse your behavior.”

He was ordered to pay restitution totaling $8,767 and fines totaling $1,810.

Judge Loo found that Yamashita had violated his probation in his earlier case by not reporting, not paying restitution, not finding employment and using illegal drugs including methamphetamine, marijuana, Oxycontin and opiates in 2017 and 2018. In that case, he was resentenced to a five-year prison term and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution.