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Son of former diplomat pleads guilty to embezzlement

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A Honolulu socialite and son of a former Philippine diplomat pleaded guilty in state court today to embezzling $300,000 from a local law firm when he was its office manager.

Nigel Salmingo, 31, pleaded guilty to 37 counts of first- and second-degree theft, forgery and money laundering. He faces up to 10 years in prison for first-degree theft and money laundering and up to five years for the other charges when a state judge sentences him in April.

Regardless of the length of the prison term, “If he goes before the parole board he’s probably looking at 18 months, 24 months max,” said Michael Green, Salmingo’s lawyer.

Salmingo has been in custody unable to post $500,000 bail since his arrest in New York in May.

Whenever he completes his prison term he will be deported to the Philippines because he is not a U.S. citizen, Green said.

According to the indictment against him, Salmingo stole from Winer Meheula & Devens from July 2007 to March 2009.

The state says Salmingo was able to conceal his fraud for 18 months because he made false entries in the company’s books and had the law firm’s bank and credit card statements sent to his Punahou Street home.

The prosecutor said Salmingo spent much of the money at bars, clubs, restaurants and social events. He said Salmingo also forged company checks to buy a car and pay off his personal credit card bills, opened new credit card accounts in the company’s name and made unauthorized charges and took cash advances on the law partners’ company credit cards.

Salmingo’s father Walter was consul at the Philippine Consulate General in Hawaii in the 1990s.

Green said that led his client to mistakenly believe he had diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution.

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