A former Kona man accused of stealing thousands of dollars in rent money from properties he managed has pleaded not guilty to first-degree theft.
Third Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura ordered 56-year-old Robert Marlowe Smith to appear for trial before 3rd Circuit Judge Elizabeth Strance on July 9 at 8 a.m.
Smith, who owned the now-defunct Property Network Ltd. in Kailua-Kona, disappeared in early 2009. At least two of his former clients said in March that year that Smith’s property management firm took their money and closed. According to court records, Smith was indicted on the first-degree theft charge in April 2012. The police booking log indicates that Smith, who gave his address as Eugene, Ore., was also charged on Monday night with 32 counts of second-degree theft and one count of third-degree theft.
Nakamura declined to set bail in the case, so Smith will continue being held at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center.
Christine Giron, who owned a vacation rental at Kona Pacific condominium that had been managed by Property Network since 2006, told Stephens Media in March 2009 that Smith “closed the office, laid everybody off, and off he went.”
Giron said Smith sent her a letter on Feb. 15, 2009, notifying her of Property Network’s closure. In the letter, Smith wrote that he would be reconciling accounts and disbursing funds, and directed owners and customers not to contact former employees but to contact him. However, he left no means for contacting him.
On Tuesday, Giron, who lives in Tacoma, Wash., told the Tribune-Herald that Smith had “hurt a lot of people.”
“There are a lot of elderly people who owned rental properties that he managed, and for those people, that rent was their livelihood,” Giron said. She also praised local law enforcement for their persistence in finding and extraditing Smith.
Giron estimated that Property Network still owes her $4,500 to $5,000 paid by tenants who rented her property.
Police Lt. Gerald Wike of Kona Criminal Investigation Section declined Tuesday to say how much money Smith is accused of stealing, and referred the Tribune-Herald to Deputy Prosecutor Kauanoe Jackson, who’s on vacation.
First-degree theft, which is theft of property or services exceeding $20,000 in value, is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Second-degree theft, which is theft of property or services that exceeds $300 but is less than $20,000, is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
And third-degree theft, in which the property or services stolen exceeds $100 but is less than $300, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.