The federal investigation into police and prosecutorial corruption in Honolulu has turned toward the Big Island and Katherine Kealoha’s younger brother, Rudolph Puana, an anesthesiologist who used to be part-owner of a pain clinic there.
Special prosecutor Michael Wheat and his team of investigators issued a grand jury subpoena to Puana’s ex-wife Lynn in early September requesting records from the clinic, which she used to co-own with her ex-husband.
Lynn Puana told Civil Beat this week that she and the clinic are cooperating fully with the U.S. Justice Department in its ongoing investigation.
She also made clear that Rudolph Puana, who she divorced in 2016, no longer has any ownership interest in her practice. She renamed the clinic — formerly called Puana Pain LLC — to Big Island Pain Center and the website has also been scrubbed to remove any association with Rudolph Puana.
Lynn Puana said that she was “absolutely shocked” that federal investigators were seeking records from her business.
She said they wanted documents related to specific individuals who may have been patients at the clinic when Rudolph Puana was still working there.
She could not reveal any of the names, she said, due to possible medical privacy concerns, and noted that the investigators did not provide many details about the nature of their inquiry.
“My guess is that they were really trying to understand the scope of the prescriptions that have been issued,” Puana said. “I think they were trying to look at why these prescriptions were given and what the nature of those prescriptions were.”
She added that she was well aware of the DOJ’s investigation into her in-laws, Katherine and Louis Kealoha. But she also acknowledged that her and her ex-husband’s relationship with the Kealohas was tenuous at best.
For instance, she said she only saw Louis Kealoha, Honolulu’s former police chief, a handful of times since 1998, the year she and Rudolph Puana met.
After receiving the subpoena, Lynn Puana hired Honolulu lawyer William Shipley, a former assistant U.S. attorney, to represent the clinic while investigators continue their probe.
Shipley said he’s not sure what direction the investigation will take, but noted that his client has been fully compliant in the request for information.
“It’s hard to say where they’re headed because I don’t really know everything that’s being looked at,” Shipley said. “We’ve never been asked to provide an inventory or look at an inventory. We don’t know what the allegations are other than the generalities.”
His top priority right now, he added, is to make sure the public understands that Rudolph Puana no longer has any relationship with the clinic.
Rudolph Puana, meanwhile, has hired a criminal defense attorney, Jeffrey Hawk, who did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for comment.
A close friend of Puana, Chris McKinney, has also been called to testify before the federal grand jury. McKinney is a local writer, who co-authored a biography of Puana that was published in 2014 called “The Red-Headed Hawaiian.”
The book discusses Puana’s rough-and-tumble upbringing in Kahaluu on Oahu’s North Shore as well as his medical training at Creighton University and at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.
McKinney, who grew up with Puana and Katherine Kealoha in Kahaluu, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
It’s unclear where Rudolph Puana fits into the larger DOJ investigation, which has been going on since 2014.
But HPD documents obtained by Civil Beat through a public records request show that federal investigators have keyed in on an August 2015 drug raid and the prescription painkillers seized during the bust.
Those narcotics — 116 skin patches of fentanyl — were recovered during the arrest of Tiffany Masunaga and Alan Ahn, who at the time was an HPD sergeant assigned to the department’s traffic division.
Officers involved in the raid also seized cocaine, marijuana, hydrocodone and alprazolam, which is commonly referred to under its trade name of Xanax.
According to HPD reports, federal investigators issued a confidential subpoena to the department around October 2017 that requested photographs of the fentanyl patches.
Less than a month later, Wheat and the FBI asked HPD to turn over evidence it collected from a forensic analysis of two cell phones that were recovered during the raid.
The new reports also show the drug bust was directed by Katherine Kealoha and an HPD officer, Daniel Sellers, who at the time was a member of HPD’s secretive Criminal Intelligence Unit. Sellars is one of four officers indicted along with the Kealohas in the ongoing corruption probe.
The Masunaga case has taken on a more significant role in the DOJ investigation.
Her attorney, William Harrison, has said his client’s life is in danger because she has information that might help federal investigators.
But the Honolulu prosecutors have effectively prevented her from talking by convincing her to become an informant for them, a relationship they tried to keep secret by sealing public court records.
Katherine and Louis Kealoha were indicted in October 2017 along with four other HPD officers for allegedly trying to frame a family member for the theft of the Kealohas’ mailbox. A fifth officer has already pleaded guilty.
The Kealohas additionally face charges related to bank fraud and identity theft for allegedly bilking Katherine’s grandmother and uncle out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Katherine Kealoha, a former deputy prosecuting attorney, is also accused of stealing thousands of dollars from two children who she once had guardianship over.
Wheat and his team of prosecutors now seem to be focusing more attention on Kealoha’s former boss, Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro.
Among the suspicions are that Kaneshiro concocted a secret grand jury to help cover up for Katherine Kealoha, who was being investigated by federal authorities for lying to a judge to dismiss a speeding ticket for an acquaintance.
Masunaga and Ahn have also been called to appear before Kaneshiro’s grand jury, proceedings that are now subject to DOJ scrutiny.
There are also concerns surrounding the city’s purchase of a $5.5 million apartment complex from one of Kaneshiro’s top political donors.
Kealoha and Kaneshiro are not the only people in the prosecutor’s office who are suspected of possible wrongdoing. First Deputy Prosecutor Chasid Sapolu has also received notification from the the DOJ that he’s a possible subject of their investigation.
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