Elderly Kennewick man gets jail time for large theft

PASCO — A 71-year-old man was sentenced to 45 days in jail for taking more than $200,000 from his employer over 2 1/2 years and using business accounts for personal purposes.

James A. Hughes of Kennewick pleaded guilty in Franklin County Superior Court to first-degree theft. A forgery charge was dismissed in the plea deal.

Hughes was told he can do the jail time on work release.

According to court documents, Hughes took over managing Frontier Trading LLC in April 2005. The company specializes in custom-built hopper trailers, according to its website.

Business owner Henry Kidwell noted that no profits had been returned at the end of the fiscal year in 2006 and 2007. Normally there is $30,000 to $100,000 available, documents said.

"Growing suspicions eventually led Kidwell to take back management of the business in 2007," FBI Special Agent John Ryther wrote in the court documents. "Further investigation by Kidwell and his bookkeeper discovered a large amount of funds were missing."

Ryther found that Hughes "was using the various business accounts for personal purposes, commingling his personal funds with business funds and transferring money back and forth between multiple accounts."

He said in court documents that Hughes -- using various methods such as transfers, withdrawals and checks -- stole as much as $234,476 between March 2005 and November 2007 from Frontier Trading.

"I intended to deprive Henry Kidwell of this cash money when I wrongfully took it from him," Hughes said in his plea statement.

Hughes must repay $179,491 to Kidwell of Pasco. He had no previous felony convictions.

Defense attorney Matt Rutt said his client has a lot of remorse for what he did.

At sentencing, Judge Bruce Spanner said he was troubled by the recommendation for a mid-range sentence considering the amount of money Hughes took over an extended period of time.

The standard range for the theft, without any prior convictions, is no jail time to 90 days.

Hughes apologized to the state, Franklin County and Kidwell. He said he didn't receive the money.

"I passed out a lot of cash" to family members and other employees, Hughes said.

Deputy Prosecutor Brian Hultgrenn said there was a question out of the investigation if the money was really squandered or just what happened to all of it.