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Who is Alison Lee Wong?
That’s a question that’s been raised by the recent federal indictment of former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha and his prosecutor wife, Katherine, on felony charges of bank fraud, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. Wong is also named in that indictment.
Wong once wrote a recommendation backing Katherine Keahola’s nomination for a top state job. She notarized a mortgage document for Kealoha. And Wong apparently even worked at the YMCA.
But there’s a hitch: Federal investigators say Wong doesn’t exist.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, Katherine Kealoha used the the alias of “Alison Lee Wong” to carry out alleged criminal activities over several years.
That included sending emails from an account purportedly belonging to Wong in an attempt to cover up the alleged theft of $150,000 from two children who had just lost their father to tragedy.
Wong has become as much a character in the case of alleged corruption as Gerard Puana, the uncle Katherine Kealoha is accused of framing, or Derek Hahn, a Honolulu police officer who allegedly helped carry out the frame job with other members of a covert surveillance unit.
Wong’s name — or some variation of it — has surfaced in other court records related to the Justice Department’s investigation into widespread public corruption and abuse of power.
In a federal lawsuit, Puana accused Katherine Kealoha of creating a “fake and fraudulent trust document” in 2009 in order to obtain a reverse mortgage for her grandmother.
That document appeared to have been notarized by “Allison Lee-Wong” in 2007, but Puana’s attorney could find no record of a notary with that name existing in the state of Hawaii.
The use of Wong’s name also appears in other aspects of Katherine Kealoha’s public life, including in 2008 when she was nominated by then-Gov. Linda Lingle to head the Hawaii Office of Environmental Quality Control, which oversees the state’s environmental review of proposed developments such as the Honolulu rail project and the Superferry.
During the confirmation process, testimony was submitted to the Hawaii Legislature in support of Kealoha’s nomination in the name of Alison L.Y.F. Wong.
“I have known Katherine for over nine years, and in that time period, she has dedicated her career and volunteer activities to the preservation of our Environment in Hawaii,” Wong said in a typed letter to the Senate Committee on Energy and the Environment.
“Given her background and history, she is the best candidate for this position,” Wong added. “The Director of the OEQC should be balanced in her decisions, and fair to both development and our environment; if anyone can do this balancing act, it is Katherine Kealoha.”
In her letter, Wong also described herself as “an active constituent,” but didn’t reveal any other details of her life, such as where she worked or where she lived.
Wong included an email address from a Yahoo! account that used her name. Civil Beat sent an email to that account requesting an interview Wednesday, but has yet to receive a response.
Certain phrases in Wong’s testimony in support of Kealoha also appear to match those from other letters submitted by her supporters, suggesting that it was part of a coordinated campaign.
Kealoha received more than 90 pages of written testimony supporting her nomination to the Lingle administration.
Among those supporting Kealoha were then-Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle, Gerard Puana, who she was later accused of framing, and Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, another police officer who was charged as part of the alleged conspiracy.
Gary Hooser, a former state senator who was vice-chair of the Senate environment committee when Kealoha was up for the OEQC job, said he didn’t recall Alison Lee Wong testifying in person — or much else about the hearing.
But Hooser said there wasn’t anything particularly controversial about Kealoha’s nomination and wondered why she might have needed to craft testimony from what federal prosecutors now say is a fictional supporter.
“It is bizarre,” Hooser said.
Wong also appears in the lawsuit Gerard Puana and his 98-year-old mother, Florence, filed against Katherine Kealoha for alleged financial elder abuse and fraud.
The gist of the allegations in that lawsuit — that Kealoha had stolen money from them as part of a reverse mortgage deal and investment scheme — are spelled out in the indictment as one of the suspected motivations behind the suspected framing of Gerard Puana.
On June 19, 2013, Puana’s attorney, Gerald Kurashima, began his deposition of Katherine Kealoha as part of his evidence gathering in the lead-up to trial.
Two days later her mailbox was stolen and Puana eventually blamed for the theft.
During a follow-up deposition more than a year later, on Sept. 26, 2014, Kurashima again questioned Kealoha about the circumstances surrounding the lawsuit.
According to transcripts from the deposition, he also asked her about her relationship with Wong.
Kurashima (Q): Okay. You said that you knew Alison Wong?
Kealoha (A): Yes.
Q: What does Alison Wong do?
A: She used to be like one of those paralegals who would help attorneys for different — you know, big cases or big filings.
Q: Did she work in any organization that you worked in like was she an employee of a firm, government agency or anything?
Q: So you know her because she was doing some paralegal work for a case that you may have had or how did you know her?
A: Well, I met her — I met her probably when I was in college at — and she worked at the Y. And my boyfriend at the time worked at the Y and I met her. I’m just, you know, hanging out there.
Q: When you say Y, you mean YMCA?
A: I’m sorry, the YMCA, yes.
Q: Which YMCA would that be?
A: The YMCA in Kalihi.
Q: So that’s when you first met Alison Wong?
Q: Did you ever have her work on — or did you ever work on any case where she was also involved in?
A: I didn’t have her work on any cases but I did bump into her years later. I can’t think of how many years later but I did have her, on several occasions, take documents down from our office to go and take it down to court. I did have her do some messaging. That was quite a while ago.
Q: When was the last time you saw Alison Wong, the one that you know?
A: I would say in either 2008 or 2009, yeah, at Home Depot.
Q: You don’t know what her address is?
A: No. I have not talked to her in a while.
Q: And the Alison Wong that you know was not the notary on the Gerard Puana Trust?
A: No, she was not.
Q: And that’s the only Alison Wong that you know?
Civil Beat reporter Stewart Yerton contributed to this report.