When John Paul Cates caught a thief stealing from him on camera, he could have called the cops. But he had other ideas for the man to make good on the $10,000 he owed.

When John Paul Cates, the owner of TSW Fabrication, saw the surveillance camera footage, he was furious.

This was the third time in a month that a man had snuck illegally onto his construction site and taken something. Up to that point, this thief had managed to steal over $10,000 worth of tools and materials.

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Finally deciding to take matters into his own hands, Cates decided to offer a $1,000 reward to anyone who could find the crook. In a swerve he never expected, though, Cates was able to keep his thousand dollars… because the thief turned himself in.

But that twist was far from the end of this strange — and in the end, delightful — story.

Why a Homeless Man Stole $10k in Tools – And Why He Surrendered

Construction team looks at site
Photo by Scott Blake on Unsplash

The thief identified himself as 33-year-old Travis Sueyoshi, and when he returned to the scene of the crime, he was overcome with remorse.

Sueyoshi knew what he did was wrong, and wanted to apologize. Just three days after the latest theft, he returned to the construction site in Waipahu, Hawaii, and confessed everything to Cates.

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“I was just having some problems,” Sueyoshi explained. But he wasn’t just there to make excuses and apologize, he also wanted to make things right. That’s why Sueyoshi offered to work off his debt in whatever way Cates saw fit.

“Somewhere in that conversation,” Cates remembers, “the moment changed. I was looking at him and I was like, ‘No, I don’t want you to work it off. I’m going to hire you.’”

Rather than call the police, Cates offered the man a job. There was only one problem.

Why a One-Time Thief Turned His Life Around for a Simple Act of Kindness

Sueyoshi was homeless, and he didn’t own a car, which not only explained to some degree why he was so desperate for money, but also caused a new wrinkle, since he couldn’t get to and from work.

According to his new boss, though, that hasn’t stopped the man from arriving at work on time every single day at 7am on the dot. Sueyoshi maintains the cleanliness of the site and takes pride in his work, but he also has his sights set higher.

“For my future, part of me hopes I last long with them, and I become one of these guys on the roof,” Sueyoshi said. As if to prove his potential, Sueyoshi constructed a pair of wooden shelves that help him keep the site in order. His pride in his work is evident.

“We really want him to grow with us,” his boss said. “And we really want to find a place for him to lay his head at night. A legitimate place.”

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Cates even expressed hope that Sueyoshi become a steel worker one day. Jobs in structural iron and steel work are projected to grow in the following years, and these workers earn higher than average salaries. Such a job could help Sueyoshi move away from a life in petty crime and toward his real goals.

Once he gets back on his feet, Sueyoshi said, he wants to reconnect with his three kids and “be a good dad”.

It would have been a simple and straightforward thing for Cates to call the police that day when Sueyoshi came back to the construction site and confessed his crimes. Cates could have quickly taken care of a problem and gotten back to work. Instead, he chose the harder, but more rewarding path: forgiveness. And not only did he forgive the thief, he helped turn his life around.

An act of kindness really can change someone’s life. As this story has shown, it can literally get someone off the streets.


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