A 26-year-old woman on felony probation for burglarizing the home of a now-retired Hilo judge three years ago is back behind bars facing numerous charges related to the theft of several credit cards.
Emma Theresa Romero is charged with second-degree identity theft, three counts each of unauthorized possession of personal confidential information and theft of a credit card, four counts each of fraudulent use of a credit card and third-degree identity theft, and two counts each of third- and fourth-degree theft.
Second-degree identity theft, the most severe charge, is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, upon conviction.
Romero made her initial appearance Monday before Hilo District Judge Kanani Laubach.
Deputy Public Defender Isaac Ickes requested Romero be set free on supervised release without bail “notwithstanding the recommendation of Intake Services.” He said Romero lives with her parents in Waiakea Uka.
“Ms. Romero has expressed to me a sincere desire to me to go into Hina Mauka,” Ickes said, referring to an Oahu substance abuse treatment facility. “I understand things may be lined up already … to have Ms. Romero enter into residential treatment.”
He added Romero has no prior history of failing to appear for court dates.
Deputy Prosecutor Elyssa Correia objected, noting the number of charges, and told the judge Romero is “supposed to be on Oahu on felony supervision.”
“She recently moved back to the Big Island without permission,” Correia said, and asked that Romero’s $91,000 bail be maintained.
The case Romero is on probation for stems from the October 2015 burglary of Hilo District Judge Barbara Takase, who was still on the bench, and Takase’s attorney husband, Gerald, who is director of Liquor Control for Hawaii County. Police said Romero and an accomplice, Eric Yukio Hernandez, entered the Takases’ Waiakea Uka home through an unlocked door and pilfered jewelry worth $3,675.
Romero pleaded no contest to second-degree theft in June 2016 and was sentenced to four-years probation and a year in jail by Honolulu Circuit Judge Richard Perkins, who heard the case since all Big Island judges recused themselves. Romero also was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and to make restitution to the Takases and their insurance company.
Hernandez received a similar sentence from another Honolulu judge.
Both were ordered to stay away from each other and the Takases.
Correia told Laubach the alleged victim in the current case went fishing Sunday at Palekai, also known as Radio Bay, put his cellphone and wallet — which had his identification and several credit cards — in his fanny pack, then put the fanny pack on the ground as he fished.
After fishing, the man discovered his fanny pack was missing, and his 2000 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck had been stolen, Correia said.
According to Correia, Romero attempted to use a stolen credit card to buy seven prepaid credit cards worth almost $430 at Walgreens. She allegedly left without making the purchase after being asked for identification. At Ross Dress for Less, she was able to buy Juicy Couture perfume for $20 with a stolen credit card, Correia said.
Correia added that stolen credit cards were declined at Target, where Romero allegedly attempted to purchase two Visa gift cards worth $212, and at Home Depot, where Romero allegedly tried to make almost $530 in purchases.
“The alleged series of events paint a picture of a very calculated and persistent individual,” Correia told the judge. “Emma Romero was determined to rack up a number of charges at the expense of the victim.”
Laubach maintained Romero’s bail and ordered Romero to appear for a preliminary hearing at 2 p.m. Monday.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald