Ex-employee gets jail time for ripping off boss

LIHUE — A disgruntled employee who burglarized his former employer was sentenced to felony probation and one year in jail Wednesday in 5th Circuit Court.

Kyle Kalani Hostallero, 27, of Hanamaulu, was convicted of breaking into the Kapaa warehouse of Kauai Community Recycling Services, smashing a hidden safe and taking $5,000 cash on Sept. 8, 2012. He also smashed the windows on two recycling trucks with a hammer during the heist.

“The sentencing kind of hurts,” said James Higginbotham, co-owner of Kauai Community Recycling Services and Hostallero’s former boss.

He said his concern is of a repeat crime if Hostallero doesn’t get treatment for drug use, which Higginbotham said led to the crime.

“It’s tough because he was an employee of ours and I was trying to help him out by giving him work to try and keep him on the straight and narrow,” Higginbotham said. “For him to rip us off like that felt as though I was stabbed in the back.”

County Second Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Vogt said Hostallero told co-workers before the crime he planned on committing it. The former employee also bragged about it afterward, Vogt said. Hostallero was arrested about two weeks after the crime, which was suspected of being an inside job because few people knew the whereabouts of the hidden safe.

“The defendant’s prior convictions were minimal but the crimes are increasing in gravity,” Vogt said, arguing against the defense’s claim that Hostallero’s relatively clean record meant he should only be put on probation.

Hostallero had two petty misdemeanor offenses in 2004 for disorderly conduct, and a marijuana charge in 2008.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe said the defendant needed to understand there isn’t a difference in a crime against what one felt was a successful business and what one felt was a struggling one, as Hostallero had stated in a pre-sentence report.

“The commission of these acts are wrong — period,” Watanabe said.

The court denied Hostallero’s request for a deferred acceptance of a no-contest plea. A deferred acceptance would give the defendant the opportunity to request the conviction be removed from his record after serving his sentence.

The judge ordered that Hostallero undergo a substance abuse evaluation and follow through with any recommendations, as well as pay $6,390.62 in restitution. The first $4,588 was for the cash taken and the remainder was for the $500 deductible for each truck window that was smashed and other non-recoverable damages.

“We are pleased with this sentence,” said County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar. “Small businesses struggle in this economy and things won’t change if we can’t depend on and trust one another.”

Hostallero was indicted on Dec. 31 for second-degree burglary and second-degree criminal property damage.

He was arrested on Jan. 23 and entered a no-contest plea on July 15.

State Deputy Public Defender Stephanie Sato expressed concern that the request for an assessment of the defendant to determine eligibility for HOPE Probation (Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement) was not responded to fully. The program is a jail alternative for drug offenders and others at high risk of recidivism, if allowed by the court, and gives the defendant a more strict supervision with sanctions for violations than standard probation.

“Let him prove himself to the court,” Sato said.

Instead, Hostallero has spent eight months in jail and will get credit for time served.

Higginbotham said they had just spent $20,000 on a transmission replacement and the $5,000 theft hit the business hard. He said it is sad to see what crystal methamphetamine does to people who are otherwise law-abiding for the most part.

“He got caught up ‘Ice’ and mixed with the wrong people and then knew where to find easy money to feed his drug addiction,” he said. “I am definitely not happy, but am hopeful that he will learn something from this whole ordeal.”

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