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Accountant sentenced for stealing $866K from businesses

July 18, 2018 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — An accountant has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after he stole $866,000 from four Hawaii businesses.

Justin Ha, 47, was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to 85 counts of theft and forgery, Hawaii News Now reported .

Ha was convicted of stealing from his employer, AMH Inc., and three other businesses for which he was contracted to do accounting work.

“Your honor, I had a very bad gambling problem,” Ha told the judge at the sentencing hearing Monday.

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Ha forged 81 checks from 2013 to 2017 and used the money to pay off credit card debt and student loans, authorities said. The money also funded trips and bills at restaurants, bars and strip clubs.

“I don’t care what your reason was,” Judge Rom Trader said. “Nothing about that gave you the right to steal money from these people. You knew exactly what you were doing every time you did it.”

Ha apologized in court to his former employer and the other victims, requesting a sentence of probation.

“On his own, before anyone ever questioned him, confronted him, investigated it, he came forward to his bosses and admitted what he had been doing,” defense attorney Thomas Otake said.

The judge denied the request, saying probation was not adequate for the crime.

“I accept whatever punishment you give me today because I know I deserve it,” Ha told the court.

The judge ordered Ha to pay the stolen money back, but prosecutor Chris Van Marter told the court that it was unlikely the businesses will receive meaningful restitution.

“He has huge debts but no assets,” Van Marter said. “He doesn’t even have a job that produces income.”

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Information from: KGMB-TV, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/