HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former Hawaii Kai caregiver was sentenced to 10 years today for stealing $600,000 dollars from an elderly woman and leaving her without a house. Jurors found Susan Chin guilty on three of six felony counts, including theft and money laundering in April.
The 44-year-old stared straight ahead as Honolulu Circuit Court Judge Karen Ahn conceded that although she has no prior record, her actions were deceptive.
"I don't think I have much choice but to sentence you in the three counts to ten years of imprisonment," said Judge Ahn.
Chin claims the money was gifted to her kids, but Judge Ahn found it wasn't reasonable to believe a woman in her 80's with dementia intended for her caregiver to take hundreds of thousands of dollars. Chin received the maximum sentence as her victim, 86-year-old Katherine Ganeko, looked on.
"That's good enough for now, first time," said Ganeko outside the courtroom immediately following the sentencing.
Chin's defense attorney William Harrison said probation would be the appropriate punishment for his client since she had power of attorney over Ganeko.
"The bottom line here is that you have an individual who attempted to do what she believed was the desires of Mrs. Ganeko," said Harrison.
The prosecutor said that was not the case. Despite character letters submitted by several elderly people on Chin's behalf, Chris Van Marter asked for the maximum penalty. He pointed to the jury's unanimous verdict that Chin sold Ganeko's house and stole the $600,000 proceeds when she transferred the money into personal accounts Ganeko had no access to.
"Those character letters don't come close to overcoming the unconscionable criminal conduct that she was found guilty of unanimously," said Van Marter.
Chin chose not to address the court.
"Respectfully, not at this time your honor," she said in response to Judge Ahn's inquiry.
Her attorney asked for, but was not granted, a temporary suspension of her sentence while an appeal is pending.
"The fact that there is no issue relative to flight risk, there is no issue relative to danger, and there's substantial issues on appeal – and that's the criteria," said Harrison, who admitted he was surprised by Judge Ahn's decision.
In the end, Chin was taken away in handcuffs. Van Marter said it was the right choice.
"We're gratified the result was prison today. I think it reflects the seriousness of the crime. The defendant has been scheming her way through life and today was the day she has to answer for her prior crimes of deception," said Van Marter.
Ganeko says she's learned a valuable lesson and had this warning for others: "You have to know that person before you really get to be friends with them, and don't listen to anyone just get your own opinion first. Make sure that you're doing the right thing, that's what I recommend," cautioned Ganeko.
Chin was also ordered to pay a little more than $523,000 in restitution.