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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 8, 2006

Man, 32, guilty of theft, forgery

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

Kenneth Peters Jr

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A 32-year-old bookkeeper who touched off a police search after his Mercedes-Benz was found empty near Makapu'u Lookout last year faces a possible prison term for forging checks and stealing more than $190,000.

Kenneth J. Peters Jr. of Salt Lake was found guilty yesterday after he chose not to contest 29 counts of forgery, credit card fraud, theft and money laundering charges related to two companies where he worked as a bookkeeper.

The charges normally would bring prison terms of up to five and 10 years, but because of the number of counts, the maximum terms could be doubled to 10 and 20 years.

Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall scheduled sentencing for June 19.

Peters and his attorney, Don Wilkerson, left the courtroom without commenting.

City Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said he will ask for a prison term of at least 10 years because Peters has a 1994 second-degree theft conviction on the Big Island.

Peters was under criminal investigation for the offenses when his car was discovered on March 22, 2005, on a cliffside, triggering an extensive search for him. He was found three days later at Honolulu International Airport on his way back from Bangkok, Thailand.

At the time, police said Peters may have staged his disappearance because of the investigation.

During the court hearing yesterday, Van Marter told Crandall that the prosecution's case would show Peters forged checks of about $39,808 from Flight School Hawai'i and AirFrame & PowerPlant Service Inc. in 2002 and 2003, made payable to a company Peters owned.

In addition, Peters kept money he was supposed to deposit for the companies and fraudulently used Flight School's credit card to take $2,618, the prosecutor said. Van Marter later said Peters failed to deposit about $95,000.

Van Marter told the judge that in a second case, Peters forged checks from Studio Becker Island Interiors that totaled $57,757 made payable to Peters' company from August 2004 until the day his car was recovered.

Reach Ken Kobayashi at kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com.