Michael Miske Jr.’s temper has gotten him in trouble before, but never like this.
Federal law enforcement has alleged in court papers that Miske, whose far-flung business interests include nightclub ownership, termite extermination companies and real estate holdings, runs his own organized crime gang called the “Miske Enterprise” that committed murders, trafficked in drugs and engaged in numerous acts of violent mayhem.
Miske’s crimes are so serious he may qualify for the federal death penalty, a rarely invoked punishment, according to allegations in a bail memo filed last week by U.S. Attorney Kenji Price.
Like the ruthless New York Mafia boss John Gotti, Miske is alleged to have murdered a man he believed was responsible for the death of his son.
And like hit man Ronald Ching and other local organized crime figures, Miske has been a member of the Hawaii Teamsters Union Movie Unit, driving visiting stars and expensive equipment to and from cinema and television productions based in the islands.
Ching drove vehicles on the original “Magnum P.I.” television series while feeding a serious heroin addiction.
Miske reportedly drove actor John Goodman to sets during the 2015 shooting here of the film “Kong: Skull Island.” Miske’s half-brother, John Stancil, a co-defendant with Miske in the new federal case as well as two earlier well-publicized assault cases, was also an occasional Movie Unit driver.
Another driver in the unit is Miske’s co-defendant Harry Kauhi.
Miske lawyer Thomas Otake said in an email: “The U.S. Attorneys statements to the media make for good drama and TV, but are not based in reality. It is indisputable that Mr. Miske has operated good, legitimate, successful, businesses in Hawaii for decades. These businesses have employed countless individuals, paid their taxes, and has given back to the community in numerous ways.”
Otake did not respond to questions from Civil Beat about Miske’s work in the Movie Unit.
Stancil attorney Gary Singh also did not respond to requests for comment.
Attempts to obtain comment from Teamsters Local 996 and Movie Unit official Cody Sulu were unsuccessful.
The union has a long and notorious history nationally and locally of connections to organized crime. The U.S. Justice Department began overseeing Teamster activities in 1989 because of its chronic mob ties. The court-ordered oversight required the union to avoid “racketeering activities” and knowingly associating with members of organized crime.
In a news conference last week, Price said the charges in a 42-page grand jury indictment of Miske and 10 associates “strike a blow to organized crime in Hawaii.”
Price argued in a no-bail motion filed in federal court last week that Miske runs an “organized crime group that has wreaked havoc on our community for years.”
Miske is “a grave danger to the community” and should not be allowed out on bail before trial, Price said.
The indictment resulted from what Price called “a sprawling federal investigation into the activities of an organized crime group.”
“The use and threat of violence and firearms was a signature of Miske,” the no-bail motion alleged.
Miske “participated in, directed and facilitated numerous assaults, kidnapping, extortion, the use of firearms, attempted murder and murder for hire,” according to the indictment.
“Nothing demonstrates Miske’s penchant for violence more than his meticulously planned and premeditated abduction, kidnapping and murder of Jonathan Fraser in July 2016,” Price’s motion said.
Fraser was a close friend of Miske’s son Caleb and he disappeared months after Caleb died of injuries suffered in a November 2015 car accident.
According to the government, Miske wrongly believed that Fraser was responsible for the accident and went to elaborate lengths to organize the kidnapping and murder of Fraser.
Miske allegedly gave Fraser a place to live “to keep tabs on him” and separated Fraser from his pregnant girlfriend by arranging a “spa day” for her, according to court papers. He bought a $425,000 Boston Whaler boat to dispose of the body after directing associates to kidnap and kill Fraser.
Fraser’s body has never been recovered.
Violence was commonplace in the Miske world, according to law enforcement and court records. Shortly before the National Football League Pro Bowl game in 2013, Miske was charged with assault for allegedly smashing a champagne bottle over the head of all-pro Washington Redskins lineman Trent Williams in Miske’s M nightclub, across Punchbowl Street from the federal building. Williams was unable to play in the game as a result.
Stancil was also charged in that case but charges were dropped after Williams refused to return to the islands to testify.
Both men were also charged in a similar attack that allegedly caused “substantial physical injury” to a nightclub customer in December 2012.
That case has been repeatedly delayed but is still pending in Circuit Court. Stancil pleaded no contest to two third-degree assault charges in 2018 and was sentenced to one year of probation.
Various other suits and claims of violent treatment of nightclub customers have been filed in court and with the Honolulu Liquor Commission.
Other similar civil complaints have been also been filed against Miske.
In 2003, a business competitor filed a court complaint that alleged a disturbing encounter with Miske at the Waipio Costco store. A “ranting and raving” Miske accused the businessman, Michael Botha, of interfering in Miske’s attempts to secure a state pest control license, according to the court file.
Botha said Miske was within 6 inches of his face, threatening him and challenging him to a fight.
Miske told Botha he had “dangerous friends who know where I live on the North Shore and he would take matters into his own hands,” the court papers alleged.
“You don’t know who you are dealing with, I have a past, and in Hawaii, things are handled different,” Miske purportedly told Botha, according to a court filing.
Miske allegedly threatened to slit open fumigation tents on Botha’s job sites. Four months later, someone carved a large hole in the side of a Botha fumigation tent covering a house on Mokapu Boulevard in Kailua, releasing deadly Vikane gas, court record say.
No one was injured in the incident and there were no arrests or charges filed.
Otake had no comment on Botha’s charges.
Other allegations of Miske’s quick temper and violent nature are found in court files detailing threats in September 2005 against a teenage student on the campus of St. Louis School in Kaimuki.
Miske challenged the student to a fight and tried three times to charge him but was blocked by a school official.
The student alleged in court papers that Miske then drove in the vicinity of the school, calling out threats.
“Later that day, Miske and two other adults chased (the student), who was on foot, with their vehicle through Kalihi,” according to papers on file in state appellate court.
Miske pleaded guilty to a third-degree assault charge in 2006 and served one year of probation.
His criminal record includes six felony convictions for offenses including kidnapping, assault, credit card fraud and theft.
In the no-bail motion, prosecutors charged that Miske ordered “violent assaults” against people “who dared to cross or challenge him.”
He even had “a coded system to describe the level of harm he wanted to inflict upon his victim,” Price’s memo said.
“Twenty percent meant sufficient force to intimidate a victim; 50 percent meant sufficient force to cause a physical injury; 80 percent meant sufficient force to cause injuries that required hospitalization; and 100 percent meant murder,” the memo said.
Other charges in the Miske indictment include drug trafficking. The government said he financed a “$400,000/ten kilogram cocaine deal in 2014 with Mexican cartel members from California” and has had “continued involvement in the trafficking of methamphetamine, cocaine, oxycodone and marijuana.”
Miske has been very successful in business and built an expansive oceanfront home on Lumahai Street in the exclusive Portlock neighborhood of East Honolulu. The home has a tax value of $5 million.
The federal government now wants to seize the house and other Miske assets which are part of what Price called “vast financial resources.”
“A review of financial transactions conducted by Miske from 2010 through 2017 showed he spent approximately $15,821,963 on major expenditures,” the no-bail memo said.
During the same period, Miske also acquired “luxury vehicles valued at over $100,000 as well as luxury watches, jewelry and art valued at over $200,000,” according to prosecutors.
His tax returns showed Miske had “only $7,921,506 available to spend on personal expenses after taxes,” meaning he spent nearly $8,000,000 in additional, unexplained income during the same time frame, the no-bail memo said.
Price said the long-running probe of Miske and his associates involved multiple types of investigative techniques. Among them were:
During this unique election season, we appreciate that you and others like you have relied on Civil Beat for accurate, objective coverage of the candidates and their races.
Covering the pandemic has taken a lot of our collective energy. But through it all, our small team of reporters made sure you didn’t forget about electoral politics. Because we know that elections not only test society’s participation in our democracy, but journalism’s commitment to safeguarding it.
If you’ve relied on our election coverage this season, please consider making a tax-deductible gift to support our newsroom.