LIHUE — A Lihue caregiver who stole money from an elderly couple was sentenced to probation and 15 months in jail on Wednesday in 5th Circuit Court.
Thomas Frank Maaele, 32, was so caring and compassionate in his role as caregiver to an elderly couple that the victims did not want to see him go to prison even though he took about $20,000 from them from October 2013 to October 2014, according to Second Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Vogt.
Maaele could have received 10 years in prison for a B felony second-degree identity theft charge in the 115-count complaint, but instead received 18 months, the maximum amount allowable with felony probation.
“There is nothing short of saying your actions were despicable,” said Judge Kathleen Watanabe.
Maaele was also given concurrent one-year jail sentences with probation on five C felony charges of unauthorized control of confidential personal information, second-degree forgery, credit card theft, fraudulent use of credit card, and second-degree theft.
Maaele has a standing restitution order of $11,210 to the victims, and $5,623.62 to First Hawaiian Bank.
Maaele was employed by a home health agency at the time. He had no prior criminal history other than operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant in 2002.
Watanabe said the case goes to the heart of the issue of fear that many elderly have about trusting caregivers of the home health care industry.
The defendant’s only saving grace was that he continued to do his job and show compassion for the clients even as he was stealing from them.
The victims were not aware of the crimes. It was First Hawaiian Bank that noticed something was not right after Maaele had written 17 of the couple’s checks to himself for cash and deposit.
The defendant said the crimes were committed to feed a drug addiction, Vogt added.
State Deputy Public Defender Samuel Jajich said the defendant is aware of how serious this crime was and shows remorse for his actions and to the feelings of the victims.
Maaele has led a hard life that led up to this day and he has accepted responsibility, he added.
“There is no excuse for what happened in this case,” Jajich said.
County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said elder abuse is a growing problem in the community and takes many forms, including the financial abuse as demonstrated in the case.
“Our kupuna deserve better than this,” Kollar said. “We don’t want people to be fearful, but there are simple steps we can take to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, including securing checkbooks and regularly checking financial statements and credit reports. We will not hesitate to prosecute these offenders.”