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Hawaii man pleads guilty to defrauding students in Japan

A man who taught English at a well-known chain of foreign language schools in Japan pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding his students out of more than $230,000.

As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Rick Mikaele pleaded guilty to mail fraud and impersonating a federal officer or employee.

Mikaele, who was a Nova teacher, told two students he could get them a high rate of return by putting their money into a First Hawaiian Bank certificate of deposit, according to an indictment. He then sent them fake bank statements and a bogus letter to make it look like the U.S. Internal Revenue Service was demanding $7,000 in taxes for profit earned on the money, the court document said.

Mikaele collected nearly $128,000 from one student and nearly $109,000 from another, the indictment said.

He didn’t open any CDs with the money, Mikaele said in court. He said he sent them fake First Hawaiian Bank statements. He also falsified IRS logos to send them fake letters directing them to mail money to a private Hawaii mailbox he obtained “to see if I could get more money,” from them, he said.

The indictment said Mikaele is from Waimanalo. In court, defense attorney Steve Cedillos said Mikaele travels between Hawaii and Japan, where he and his wife run a concert promotion business.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 7, but Cedillos said his client will need more time to raise about $236,000 in restitution with the concert promotion business. His wife recently gave birth in Japan, Mikaele said.

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