State far outpaces feds in embezzling sentence
A Pearl City man with a history of offenses will serve 10 years
"Never steal anything small," James Cagney's immoral character croons in the opening credits of the 1959 musical of the same name.
The case of a convicted criminal from Pearl City seems to back him up.
Dennis H. Hieda, who once wrote to a judge that he always thought "money was power and a way of having friends," was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in state prison for embezzling $24,000. The sentence was four times longer than the 2 1/2 years in federal prison that he received last month for embezzling more than $500,000.
In the state case, Hieda, 56, pleaded guilty in August to 12 counts of second-degree forgery and one count of first-degree theft.
Circuit Judge Richard Perkins denied the state's request to order Hieda to serve his terms consecutively to the federal case. After Hieda completes his federal sentence, he will be sent to Halawa to serve the remainder of his state term.
Hieda worked as an accountant for two companies, Aloha Painting Co. Inc. and Rescue Technologies Corp., and over a five-month period in 2002 forged 12 checks totaling $24,000, said Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter.
Hieda also used the company's credit card to purchase four round-trip airline tickets valued at $2,200 for him and his wife to fly to Las Vegas at the company's expense.
"This is serious. It's egregious and just blatant deception on the part of the defendant against his employer," Van Marter said.
Hieda committed these offenses while he knew he was under investigation in the federal matter, he noted.
Hieda is no stranger to the court system.
In 1992 he was convicted for stealing $3,006 from employer Hawaiian Grocery stores and sentenced to probation. In 1997 he was convicted in state District Court for negotiating a worthless instrument and sentenced to five years' probation.
By 2001, Hieda had moved to bigger things, working as senior account manager, and later finance manager, for DZSBaker LLC, which was under contract by the Navy to provide long-term housing maintenance for military housing in Hawaii.
From February 2000 through February 2001, Hieda forged signatures on 48 checks drawn on his employer's operating account at Bank of Hawaii and then purchased cashier's checks with the money for personal use, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Hino.
On Nov. 3, U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor sentenced Hieda to the maximum under advisory federal sentencing guidelines: 30 months without parole and five years of supervised release.
Gillmor also ordered him to pay $512,854 in restitution to DZSBaker, Hartford Insurance Co. and Bank of Hawaii.
Although the state only charged Hieda with stealing $24,000 from his former employer, under a civil settlement he is required to pay $35,000, Van Marter said.
Yesterday, Hieda apologized and said, "I promise you will never, ever see me again."
After leaving Aloha Painting, Hieda said he found work with other companies so that he could pay restitution, and even secured a promotion.
"I had to work hard, with integrity, honorably, and diligence I didn't have before, and it actually felt good," he said.
Using the embezzled money, Hieda bought expensive gifts for friends. He also purchased new cars and then sold them to friends at huge losses. He told them the cars were purchased at discounted prices.
While the defense argued that Hieda did not personally benefit from much of the money he embezzled, Hino argued that he benefited by stealing $500,000 to buy the power and friendship that he craved.
Hieda also has admitted to embezzling about $30,000 from another company in the early 1990s, where he worked as a bookkeeper.
Hieda was ordered to surrender to the Federal Detention Center to begin serving his federal term on Jan. 3. His state term also will begin that day, Perkins said.