Police say 'ice' habit drove lavish purchases
HPD and U.S. agents arrest a couple that allegedly used others' credit accounts
A U.S. Postal Service delivery truck brought four plasma screen television sets to a Kapiolani Boulevard apartment. What looked like a routine delivery was a police raid instead.
Police and federal agents jumped out of the delivery truck and arrested a man, 44, and his wife, 42, on Jan. 6 after they allegedly signed for the merchandise.
Police said the man began charging expensive tools, equipment and furniture over the last couple of months in the name of a landscaping company he used to work for -- totaling about $20,000.
"They were starting up accounts, diverting mail ... we're still looking into that part of it," said acting Detective Clem Enoka, of the District 7 (East Oahu) Burglary/Theft Detail.
"But the amount of things they purchased, that threw me for a loop," he said.
Police said that while searching the couple's apartment, officers also found personal and financial information from more than a dozen other people.
Enoka said the man had been given authorization by his former employer, Reliable Landscaping & Sprinklers, to purchase tools and whatever else he needed from Lowes, City Mill, Home Depot and other vendors to complete jobs.
Reliable Landscaping had hired him about a year ago as a foreman but ended up firing him in November because of complaints that he was not showing up at job sites.
"It happened several times ... the company is called Reliable and if we don't show up then we can't have that," said Reliable Landscaping co-owner Richard Long. "The day he was fired we went down to his house and grabbed our van and the credit card and thought that was that."
Unfortunately for Long and his company, it was just the beginning. Enoka said the ex-foreman began going around to all Reliable Landscaping's different vendors and began buying things, including generators, air conditioning units, and even a $1,500 planter from a nursery.
"Some of the items ranged from $800 to $8,000," Enoka said.
While some of the goods were sold, most of it was used by the fired worker to run his own landscaping business on the side, Enoka said. Enoka said the cash from the sales also helped feed the couple's crystal methamphetamine habit.
"That's pretty much what it was all related to, both of them are addicts," Enoka said. "Everything was driven by greed, greed for the money so they could satisfy their greed for the drugs."
Both the man and his wife were arrested for investigation of two counts of second-degree theft as well as various drug offenses. They were released pending investigation two days after their arrest.
Enoka said both individuals have criminal backgrounds, with the wife having prior state convictions for auto theft and drug offenses and the husband having served 10 years in federal prison for robbery in Oregon. Long said he was unaware of the man's criminal history and knew only that he was good at his job, at least at first.
"I could see he did good work. He could run a crew. And I'm always needing a good worker like that," he said. "I don't know, I think maybe that ice makes your mind go cuckoo."
Enoka said another man had also been arrested in relation to this case involving the burglary of construction equipment at a Hawaii Loa Ridge job site on Dec. 2, 2005. U.S. Secret Service officials are also looking into whether the couple could face federal charges by going online and buying products with someone else's account.
"That has not yet been determined at this time ... we are still assisting with some computer forensic work in that case," said Special Agent Rick Walkinshaw.
Long said he's already paid off vendors for the items bought by the suspect, however it's his reputation in the business community which he thinks will still need time to heal.
"I build up this reputation of paying my bills on time for 19 years and then he rips me off," he said. "I don't even have an account at Lowe's anymore because of all this.
"I'm just glad they caught him."