A lesson in redemption: Why a business owner hired the man who stole from him

Updated: Feb. 11, 2021 at 10:48 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s a story that began with a bad decision. Two of them, actually.

“I was just having some problems,” said Travis Sueyoshi. “I ended up taking some stuff.”

Surveillance video captured the 33-year-old stealing from a construction site on Koaki Street in Waipahu — and it wasn’t the first time. He hit the same spot twice last month and got away with an estimated $10,000 worth of tools.

John Paul Cates, the owner of TSW Fabrication, says he was livid about the theft.

“We work hard for our stuff. It’s a family business,” he said. “I was like we’re going to find this guy.”

But what happened next changed everything. Three days after the break-in, Sueyoshi returned to the scene of the crime. His conscience got the best of him.

“I felt wrong for what I did,” Sueyoshi said.

Cates says he was very apologetic.

“He said I’ll work it off. I’ll do whatever,” Cates said. “Somewhere in that conversation the moment changed. I was looking at him and I was like, ‘No I don’t want you to work it off. I’m going to hire you.’”

Left: Surveillance image of Sueyoshi stealing from Waipahu construction site. Middle: A worker...
Left: Surveillance image of Sueyoshi stealing from Waipahu construction site. Middle: A worker snapped a photo of Sueyoshi the day he returned to the job site and confessed to stealing. Right: Shortly after Sueyoshi was hired to work as an employee of TSW Fabrication Inc.(John Paul Cates)

That was nearly two weeks ago.

Despite being homeless and without a car, he’s managed to show up every morning at 7 a.m. He’s responsible for keeping the site clean and organized.

“I built this the other day,” Sueyoshi said, pointing at some wooden shelves.

Cates says he’s hoping Sueyoshi can eventually pick up steel working as a trade.

“We really want him to grow with us,” he said. “And we really want to find a place for him to lay his head at night. A legitimate place.”

It’s unexpected compassion that’s helped change the course of Sueyoshi’s life. “For my future. Part of me hopes I last long with them. And I become one of these guys on the roof,” he said.

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