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Federal prosecutors want Katherine Kealoha to go to prison for 14 years and pay more than $450,000 in restitution.
They want her husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, to get locked up for more than seven years and pay about $240,000.
In a series of memos sent to U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright on Friday, the prosecutors laid out their case for why the Kealohas and their co-conspirators — Honolulu police officers Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen and Derek Hahn — deserve hefty prison sentences for their part in framing Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana, and attempting to cover it up.
Prosecutors recommended 7.25 years for Nguyen and Hahn.
The prosecutors focused mainly on the defendants’ positions in law enforcement and their repeated abuse of the public trust that led them to carry out a personal vendetta against an innocent man.
They reserved their strongest words, however, for Katherine Kealoha, a former deputy prosecutor, who has also pleaded guilty to other crimes, including those related to bank fraud, identity theft and covering up a prescription drug trafficking ring involving her brother.
“A prosecutor is backed by the awesome power of the state and entrusted to professionally and ethically abide by the rule of law,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat wrote. “When a prosecutor commits a crime by breaking the very laws they have sworn to uphold, the public’s trust in the criminal justice system suffers.”
Katherine Kealoha’s attorney, Gary Singh, did not return calls for comment.
Wheat said Kealoha, who has been in federal custody since her conviction in June, preyed on more than just her uncle, she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from her grandmother and two minor children whose father died in tragedy.
She lied to banks to obtain loans and stole people’s identities. She even made up a fake persona, Alison Lee Wong, to help her carry out the deception. If anyone questioned her, Wheat said, she “wielded the law as a cudgel to silence and intimidate” them.
Kealoha tried to have her own grandmother declared incompetent and told one of the children she had bilked for their inheritance that she would send his mother to prison if he didn’t lie for her.
When the Honolulu Ethics Commission began investigating her, Wheat said, she “sued and harangued” the investigator for doing his job.
She even tricked her own uncle, Puana, to spend time in a drug rehabilitation program even though he wasn’t using drugs, he said.
“Along the way, Katherine Kealoha committed a vast number of crimes, shrouded by a thick web of lies,” Wheat said. “All the while, Katherine Kealoha cast herself as a champion of justice within the Honolulu law enforcement community. Katherine Kealoha’s flagrant abuses of power and boundless criminality demand a significant sentence.”
Federal prosecutors are proposing that she pay her uncle, Gerard Puana, about $46,000 in restitution and her grandmother, Florence Puana, who passed away last month at the age of 100, about $243,000.
They also want Katherine and Louis Kealoha to pay Ariana and Ransen Taito — the children whose trust funds they stole from — about $160,000.
As for Louis Kealoha, who has remained out on bail, Wheat said his participation in the crimes tarnished the Honolulu Police Department’s values of “integrity, respect and fairness.”
“When corruption of this sort exists at the highest level of the police department, it destroys the reputation and integrity of the honest and hardworking members of the department and it creates an almost insurmountable obstacle to regaining the public’s trust,” the prosecutor said.
Louis Kealoha has attempted to distance himself from his wife. In October, at the time of the couple’s plea agreement in the bank fraud case, his attorney, Rustam Barbee, said the former police chief had been deceived by his spouse. He also filed for divorce that month.
However, federal prosecutors don’t see it that way.
In the sentencing memo, Wheat said “Louis Kealoha knew the scope and structure of the bank fraud, assisted in devising the scheme to defraud the banks, falsely certified that Katherine Kealoha owned monies in trust accounts that he knew did not belong to her, and exercised his decision-making authority by signing the loan documents.”
Barbee could not be reached for comment Friday.
Prosecutors want Louis Kealoha to pay Gerard Puana about $11,500 in restitution and pay $61,000 to Florence Puana, according to the sentencing memo.
For the Kealohas’ co-conspirators, Nguyen and Hahn, prosecutors noted their “ubiquitous” and “leadership” roles, respectively.
Nguyen did everything from “coaxing intel from Mr. Puana’s elderly mother to retrieving video surveillance, to falsely identifying Mr. Puana in the surveillance video, to generating false police reports, to falsely coordinating false storylines with co-conspirators, and more,” Wheat wrote.
His attorney, Randy Hironaka, did not return calls for comment Friday.
Hahn “initiated database searches of Gerard’s person, residence and vehicle, as well as 24-hour surveillance of the Kealohas and Gerard by approximately 20-30 HPD officers, including 10-15 CIU officers, until the day of Gerard’s arrest.”
“Defendant Derek Wayne Hahn undermined the core values of his sworn duties as a police officer for the Honolulu Police Department,” Wheat said in the memo.
“I obviously disagree with them,” Birney Bervar, Hahn’s attorney said. Bervar said he will be making his case in court.
Sentencing for the Kealohas is expected to take place Tuesday and for Nguyen and Hahn, Wednesday.
Read the sentencing memos here:
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