WAILUKU - Citing the sophistication and multitude of crimes committed by a Kahului man who posed as a Maui police officer and FBI special agent, 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen on Wednesday sentenced the defendant to consecutive prison terms totaling 15 years.
Eric Wayne Fernandez, 51, was ordered to serve the state prison sentence after he finishes serving a three-and-a-half-year federal prison sentence for impersonating a law enforcement officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
"He became more sophisticated in his crimes, posing as both a Maui police officer as well as a special agent with the FBI," Bissen said.
Fernandez had fake identification, business cards and clothing for both roles.
"He went through great expense, or at least put his wife through great expense, to order these items for him so he could play the role he played to gain the confidence of these victims," Bissen said.
In three cases occurring from September 2011 to April 2012, Fernandez had pleaded no contest to three counts of second-degree theft, attempted second-degree theft, three counts of second-degree forgery and second-degree burglary.
In the 2011 case, Fernandez deposited one forged check for $500 and tried to deposit another for $1,200, according to court records. The checks were stolen from a woman's bedroom while he helped out at her Pukalani home. Fernandez told the woman's daughter that he worked in a Maui Police Department cybercrimes section and falsely said there was a warrant for another person's arrest in the forgery investigation, court records show.
Fernandez also was convicted of stealing a laptop computer during an April 2012 burglary at a business on Market Street in Wailuku. Fernandez previously had a contract with the business and had its key and alarm pass code, according to court records.
In the third case, also in April 2012, Fernandez said he was an FBI agent when he went to a Kahului residence and was allowed to speak alone with a 13-year-old girl about her Facebook account. After Fernandez asked for house keys so he could enter the residence to look for evidence, the residents discovered that valuables were missing, police reported. Fernandez cashed a $1,000 check that was forged and missing from a checkbook at the home, according to court records.
Police found some of the stolen valuables in a search of Fernandez's residence, where FBI badges, business cards and logo clothing were also found along with a pistol and ammunition.
Bissen said he was troubled by how Fernandez turned family members against one another when they mistakenly believed someone else had committed some of the crimes.
"It broke apart these families," the judge said. "Not only did they blame the wrong people but after they found out who it really was, it caused even more disruption."
Fernandez declined to speak in court Wednesday.
Knowing he was facing prison, Fernandez "should be credited for taking responsibility," said Deputy Public Defender Jim Rouse.
Fernandez previously served 13 months in Folsom prison in California for burglary.
In imposing the sentence, Bissen said Fernandez should have learned from his prior contacts with the law.
The judge also cited factors including the multiple victims, Fernandez's sophistication and premeditation and his repetitive conduct.
If Fernandez had been allowed to serve the prison terms at the same time, he would have faced a maximum five-year prison sentence. Instead, Bissen ordered that five-year prison terms in each of his three cases be served consecutively for the 15-year total.
"To give the defendant a five-year prison sentence is certainly a serious and just punishment," Bissen said. "However, to run it concurrently would be to ignore the multiplicity, to basically give the defendant a pass.
"The court cannot and will not bring itself to do that today. Today the defendant is deserving of the prison sentence in each of these cases, and they will be served consecutively."
Fernandez also was ordered to pay $1,900 in restitution.
Fernandez was sentenced in the federal case in December.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.