When insurance firms launched social media initiatives, the results were rewarding.
July 04--Circuit Judge Richard Perkins on Wednesday sentenced a former insurance agent to 24 days in jail for stealing about $40,000 from elderly clients to pay gambling debts.
Scott Akashi, 31, who was fired last year as a financial adviser by John Hancock Financial Network after the thefts were reported, pleaded no contest in April to 11 counts of second-degree theft for stealing nearly $10,000 from Hiroichi Koza, 90, and $30,000 from Lily Ching, 88.
Perkins ordered Akashi to spend two days a week in jail for the next three months. He also placed Akashi on probation for five years and ordered him to perform 300 hours of community service beginning Aug. 1.
Defense attorney Richard Sing said Akashi has voluntarily surrendered his state insurance agent license and will give up his federal license next month.
Akashi, who now has a part-time job parking cars, told Perkins that for the past year he has been treated for a "pathological gambling problem," acknowledging he stole money to pay off his debts.
"I am horrified and disappointed in myself," he said.
Akashi's parents in Hilo have reimbursed Ching and Koza. They sat in court to support their son.
Perkins said he imposed the jail term to ensure that Akashi has learned his lesson.
The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs said Akashi gained the trust of his elderly clients after selling them insurance policies, then returned to say he had a better way to invest their money.
Deputy Attorney General Colleen Chun said Akashi targeted Ching and Koza because of their age and because they are living alone.
"They also trusted him," Chun said.
After sentencing, Koza said he first met Akashi when he came to his home and knocked on his door, trying to sell him an insurance annuity.
"He just told me it was a good investment," said Koza, who worked for Foremost Dairy for more than 30 years before he retired. "He didn't tell me nothing else."
Koza said he was 88 when Akashi sold him the annuity and told him he couldn't touch it for 10 years without paying a penalty.
Nevertheless, last year Akashi persuaded Koza to withdraw $10,000 from the annuity and give him the money, promising a better return despite the early withdrawal penalties. When Koza tried to call him for more information, Akashi refused to return his calls.
Koza said that his "main concern was to prevent him (Akashi) from doing something to other people."
Ching's granddaughter Michele Beckett said Akashi sold Ching a life insurance policy in 2009, then had her transfer $30,000 to a new Bank of Hawaii account. Akashi had her write nine checks made out to him through a six-month period last year.
Beckett said she discovered the checks when her grandmother asked her to review her mail.
"He fooled my grandmother," Beckett told Perkins in court. "She is wonderful, trusting and honorable."
A state investigator, who investigated Ching's complaint, said a check of Akashi's files turned up Koza's name.
After the hearing, Beckett described the sentence as "fair," adding that her intention has always been to publicize how Akashi preyed upon elderly people like her grandmother.
In court, Akashi apologized to Ching and Koza and their families.
Ching did not attend because the elderly woman is now afraid to go outside or even answer her phone, Beckett said.
"She doesn't trust anyone."
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