Deal forces accountant to repay funds
A former bookkeeper for ABC Music in Kakaako has repaid $200,000 that he stole from the company to pay off credit card debts incurred at strip clubs.
The restitution payment was part of a plea agreement reached between the state and Ronald Ching, 42, who pleaded no contest yesterday in Circuit Court to first-degree theft.
In exchange for his plea, the state has agreed to not seek a prison term. Ching was facing a 10-year sentence had he not reached an agreement.
According to prosecutors, Ching wrote 57 company checks totaling $374,000 directly to his creditors when he worked as a bookkeeper between 2000 to 2004.
He apparently disguised the payments by altering the company ledger to make it appear that he was paying legitimate company expenses, said Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter. The embezzlement, which nearly put ABC Music out of business, was uncovered during an audit, he said.
Ching submitted a check yesterday for $175,000 and agreed to have his $25,000 bail applied to the restitution. In addition to the $200,000 payment, Ching has agreed to pay the balance of the $374,000 during the term that he receives when sentenced Sept. 7, Van Marter said.
Defense attorney Howard Luke said he will ask the court to defer Ching's no-contest plea, which would allow him to keep his record clean. Ching has no prior criminal history.
Russell Tsubota, president of ABC Music, which has been selling musical instruments for 10 years, said the theft seriously affected his business and that he will object to a deferral.
"I can see him getting off on a charge without jail but to get a deferred acceptance of guilty plea and wipe his record clear, I don't think that's right," he said. "The damage is permanent to me, so he should have some damage as well."
Tsubota said he is relieved that he received some of the stolen money and hopes Ching will make full restitution.
Van Marter said it's significant when a victim of fraud can recover a substantial portion of their losses up front. "Most fraud victims are lucky to recover 10 percent," he said.