Sia sentenced to 3 years
By Frank Cho
Advertiser Staff Writer
Former Honolulu financier Sukamto Sia was sentenced yesterday to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay $3.1 million in restitution for bankruptcy fraud, but his legal troubles may not be over.
Sukamto Sia was sentenced to 3 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution for bankruptcy fraud.
"We have all these indications that there is still all this money out there. The fact is there are funds in other people's hands and we are going after them," said Scott Batterman, an attorney for several British casinos that maintain they are still owed
$6.75 million, plus interest, by Sia for gambling and other debts.
Still, yesterday's sentencing of Sia, a real estate developer and former chairman of the now-defunct Bank of Honolulu, has ended one area of years-long legal wrangling.
"What he did was not small. What he did was huge," U.S. District Judge David Ezra said in announcing the sentence.
The Indonesian businessman pleaded guilty late last year to bankruptcy and wire fraud charges, admitting he participated in a scheme to defraud the failed Bank of Honolulu by obtaining illegal loans that went to Sia or companies he controlled. The Bank of Honolulu was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 2000.
Sia also admitted that during bankruptcy proceedings he concealed two state income tax refund checks totaling more than $700,000.
Ezra called Sia's crimes "substantial" and "pervasive." "We have here a situation where Mr. Sia and his cohorts used a U.S. bank as their private piggy bank," Ezra said.
Ezra accepted Sia's plea agreement and didn't impose any fines. Sia, 43, could have faced up to 40 months in a federal prison, restitution, and fines of up to $1.5 million on the criminal charges.
Ezra also sentenced Sia to five years of supervised release after serving his term.
The U.S. had sought the maximum prison sentence for Sia.
"The evidence is this is an arrogant man who has no respect for the law," Craig Nakamura, assistant U.S. attorney, said in court.
Nakamura said there also is at least $4 million still unaccounted from Sia's financial dealings, but the government has been unable to obtain bank records from Sia-controlled accounts in Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands and Asia.
Sia has 10 days to appeal the sentencing, but William McCorriston, Sia's Honolulu attorney, said yesterday that his client is "devastated" and hasn't decided what to do.
"He wants to be a productive member of society," McCorriston said. "He wants to repay the creditors. We are grateful that the court accepted the plea agreement and gave some consideration to Mr. Sia."
Sia filed for bankruptcy protection Nov. 6, 1998, after he was arrested in Las Vegas on bad check charges. He resigned as chairman of the Bank of Honolulu and the Las Vegas charges later were dismissed.
In his bankruptcy filing, Sia listed nearly $300 million in debts and just $9 million in assets, mostly in real estate. He was arrested in Honolulu Aug. 30 on charges of bankruptcy fraud and had been living in Los Angeles under supervised release before his bail was revoked earlier this month after a fight with his girlfriend, Kelly Randall.
In a statement to the court yesterday, Sia asked to be released from prison so he can return to work to repay his debts.
"I am not a public enemy," he said as he read a statement. "I contributed to this community for 20 years. Let me get back to work and back to my family."
Sia also said he was sorry, and that his troubles began when the Asian stock markets crashed.
"I spent my life trying to be a productive person," Sia said. "I made bad choices. It was a low point in my life. ... I know I did wrong, but I am not a public enemy."
He said he plans to resume his business career after he is released.
Sia, who showed little reaction, hugged Randall after sentencing and waved to his supporters before federal marshals escorted him out of the courtroom.
"We love you, S.S.! " shouted Danny Kaleikini, a longtime Honolulu entertainer and supporter of Sia since the financier's arrest.
Sia had requested he be allowed to serve his sentence in Honolulu at the federal detention facility near the airport, but Ezra said Sia's sentence was too long to serve time there. Sia then requested to serve his sentence at either Taft Correctional Institution in Taft, Calif., or at the federal prison in Lompac, Calif.
In return for Sia's guilty plea late last year, the U.S. attorney's office had agreed to drop 18 other counts, including charges of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering against Sia, Randall and Sia's brother, Sumitro.
Sia's other brother, Suwardi, is still under indictment and believed to be out of the country.
Vincent Rakestraw, an Ohio-based attorney with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said Sia, who is not a U.S. citizen, could face deportation upon his release from federal prison.
Under the court-ordered $3.1 million in restitution, Sia will receive credit for repayment of about $2 million. He still has to pay about $1.1 million. About $25,000 of that will go to the bankruptcy court trustee, the rest will go to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which seized Sia's Bank of Honolulu in 2000.
An Associated Press report was included in this story.