Man gets 10 years for theft of $190,000
Kenneth Peters stole the money from two former employers, then disappeared
A Salt Lake man who staged his own disappearance by leaving his luxury car at Makapuu in March 2005 was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison for embezzling about $190,000 from businesses.
Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall sentenced Kenneth Peters Jr., 31, for taking about $134,000 from Flight School Hawaii and nearly $55,000 from SB Island Interiors LLC, doing business as Studio Becker.
Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter called Peters a "scam artist" who engaged in a pattern of occupational fraud over a period of three years.
Prior to his schemes, Peters apparently had set up a company, KenQuest & Co., where he funneled forged checks that he stole from his employers. He had taken flying lessons from Flight School Hawaii, and KenQuest apparently was intending to directly compete with his former employer using the money he stole, Van Marter said. "That type of scheme involved a lot of deception, premeditation and planning."
Peters expressed remorse to Wallace Frelander, owner and president of Flight School Hawaii, and to Rick Cowan, co-owner of Studio Becker, yesterday, saying, "I'm really sorry that I've done you folks bad. I'm just really sorry."
Defense attorney Don Wilkerson said Peters has made no excuses for his conduct and took responsibility and cooperated in the investigation from the beginning.
"He was gambling," Wilkerson said, and that can explain why he stole from Studio Becker even when Peters knew he was being investigated for the Flight School theft.
Crandall noted Peters had served probation previously for similar conduct in a 1993 case on the Big Island.
Not only would a maximum 10-year term provide adequate deterrence, but it would allow him to begin paying back his victims upon release from prison, the judge said. Cowan and Tiare Cowan-Broad, co-owners of Studio Becker, who had to mortgage their homes to keep their fledging business running, said they do not believe Peters' apology was genuine.
"I'm continuing to pay for his thievery," Cowan said. "We'll never fully recover what he took from us."
Peters' scam hit them in the face when they got a call from an employee who was concerned for Peters because of news reports that his Mercedes-Benz had been found down a cliff in Makapuu and that Peters was nowhere to be found.
When they watched news reports of a car being pulled from the cliffs and spotted the license plate "OH2BAD" on the Mercedes, "that's when I knew he'd taken us," Cowan said.
Peters was later located in Bangkok, and he returned to Hawaii carrying more than $15,000 in cash.
"It's not over," Frelander said afterward. "He hasn't paid a penny back. When that's done, then it'll be over. But I'm not pinning any hopes on it."
Because his business was hurt severely, his wife worked 70 to 80 hours a week helping to keep it afloat.
"The pressure was too much -- she died from it," he said yesterday.