Katherine Kealoha spent more than $20,000 — some of it stolen from her own grandmother — to help pay for flights and hotel rooms for a secret Big Island boyfriend, according to new charges filed Monday by special prosecutors investigating corruption in Hawaii law enforcement.

The U.S. Attorney’s office charged Jesse Ebersole, a Hawaii County firefighter, with felony conspiracy for lying to a federal grand jury about his relationship with Kealoha when he said they were just friends and were not romantically involved.

The new charge states that Kealoha and Ebersole worked together in an attempt to hide their relationship from federal investigators.

Jesse Ebersole, left, was charged with felony conspiracy for lying about his romantic relationship with Katherine Kealoha. His attorney, Christopher Woo, was arrested last month after allegedly skipping an appearance to testify before a grand jury. Nick Grube/Civil Beat

Both Ebersole and Kealoha were part of a prestigious fellowship program in 2009 called the Pacific Century Fellows. It was founded by former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann.

When Kealoha was accepted as a fellow she was the the director of the Hawaii Office of Environmental Quality Control and her husband, Louis, was a captain in the Honolulu Police Department. He would be named police chief later that year.

According to the charging documents, Katherine Kealoha would use money she obtained from her grandmother, Florence Puana, as part of 2009 reverse mortgage scheme to pay for her own personal expenses and to “purchase items for and enrich” Ebersole.

Among the payments were $310.21 for a flight from Hilo to Honolulu and a $1,387.12 cashier’s check made out in his name.

In the summer of 2012, federal investigators say Kealoha was able to get approved for a $150,000 second mortgage by using forged documents that said she received more than $2,700 a month in rental income that in fact did not exist.

According to the charges, Kealoha would use the money from the second mortgage to pay for flights and hotel rooms for Ebersole when he came to Honolulu.

Retired HPD Chief Louis Kealoha wife Katherine Kealoha leave district court in embrace and walking.
Katherine Kealoha and her husband, Louis, leave the federal courthouse in downtown Honolulu after being indicted on numerous criminal counts related to conspiracy and financial fraud. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“During the time they maintained an intimate personal relationship, Kealoha provided these and many other financial benefits to EBERSOLE, totaling more than $20,000,” the charging document states.

In April 2017, when Ebersole was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury, prosecutors say, he reached out to Kealoha, who told him not to say anything about their relationship or the money she had lavished on him.

When he testified before the grand jury on April 20, 2017, court records say Ebersole said he and Kealoha were just “friends” and that he had “no idea” why his name would appear on her credit card statements.

Ebersole was again called to testify before the grand jury on May 18, 2017. On that occasion, he refused to produce documents or answer questions.

The charging documents state Kealoha then arranged for an attorney — described only as “Attorney 3” — to represent Ebersole “in an effort to delay and impede his truthful testimony before the Federal grand jury.”

Ebersole and Kealoha are said to have “met alone” at Attorney 3’s residence and office on Oct. 4, 2017 to discuss his false testimony to the grand jury.

The next day he again told the grand jury that he and Kealoha did not have a “romantic” relationship and that he was “baffled” as to why his name would appear on airline tickets purchased using Kealoha’s credit card statement.

Ebersole’s attorney when he appeared before the grand jury in 2017 was Christopher Woo. Attempts to reach Woo for comment on this story were unsuccessful.

According to Hawaii News Now, Woo was arrested in June after he skipped an appearance in which he was supposed to testify before the federal grand jury as a part of the U.S. Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into public corruption.

The investigation began with allegations that Kealoha, who is a deputy city prosecutor, and her husband framed her uncle for the theft of their mailbox.

The Kealohas and several Honolulu police officers were arrested and charged in the alleged conspiracy.

The Kealohas also face additional charges of bank fraud and identity theft for a host of other financial crimes, including allegations they stole money from Katherine Kealoha’s uncle and grandmother as well as two children she had guardianship over.

Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to news@civilbeat.org and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.

About the Author