Editor’s note: The arrest last month of Mike Miske by federal agents, coming in the midst of a years-long public corruption investigation that is still playing out, has captivated many in Hawaii, especially those familiar with Miske’s reputation and history of high-profile bad behavior. Miske has been at least tangentially involved in the federal investigation into former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, his deputy prosecutor wife Katherine, other Honolulu police officers, the elected prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and top city officials like Corporation Counsel Donna Leong and Managing Director Roy Amemiya. In this piece, longtime Honolulu investigative reporter Ian Lind has painstakingly researched court and police records for a look at Miske’s early steps on a path that could lead to the death penalty, a rarity in Hawaii.
The federal indictment of Michael Miske Jr. and 10 others for allegedly operating a violent criminal enterprise has focused public attention on the 46-year-old Honolulu businessman.
Miske is best known to the public for his Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, which has advertised itself heavily for years, and his part-ownership and management of the popular M Nightclub in downtown Honolulu’s Restaurant Row, which opened in 2012 and closed in 2016 after a series of highly publicized assaults on or near club premises.
Federal prosecutors allege that while the exact origin of Miske’s racketeering conspiracy is unknown, it was already up and running as a criminal gang “by at least in or about the late 1990s.”
A review of court records, newspaper archives, and other available public documents from that period confirms that by the time Mike Miske was 21 years old, he was a felon, a multiple offender, and well on his way to a criminal career.
This is, of course, not the end of the story. It is just the beginning. But it is undoubtedly a disturbing and potentially revealing first chapter.
Michael John Miske Jr. was born in Honolulu on Feb. 15, 1974. He was named after his father, who had arrived in Honolulu a decade before when his father, Walter L. Miske — Mike Miske’s grandfather, a jeweler by profession — relocated his family from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to begin a new job in the islands.
The senior Mike Miske, who attended Kalani High School, died in 1980 at age 28, when Michael Jr. was just 6 years old. He was an only child.
After his father’s death, young Michael and his mother were folded into her extended local family and had less contact with his Miske relatives. His mother, Maydeen (Lau) Miske, remarried and the family moved into a house near some of her relatives in Waimanalo. Another son, Michael’s step-brother John B. Stancil, was born when Miske was 13. He is a co-defendant in the current federal case.
As a teenager, Miske reportedly had trouble with his new stepfather and they often tangled, eventually causing him to leave home.
“When his mother remarried he struggled to find a place in his new home,” recalls his cousin and business partner, Allen Lau, in a character reference letter filed in court by Miske’s defense attorneys. “He would often stay at my house sleeping on my parents’ couch or even at the beach.”
Although people recall Miske attending Kailua High School, he does not appear in the school’s yearbook or list of graduates for the year his class graduated.
“After high school Mike was determined to make something out of himself,” Lau wrote. “He started a few small businesses before approaching me about opening one together.”
That may be true, but court records show Miske was well on his way to a busy career in crime by the time he was 21.
Mike Miske turned 19 years old on Feb. 15, 1993.
Shortly before his birthday, Miske was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault and criminal property damage (a petty misdemeanor). He was arraigned in Honolulu’s 1st Circuit Court on Feb. 16, represented by a court appointed attorney, Reinhard Mohr.
Miske pleaded not guilty, asked for a jury trial, and his case was set for trial in August. These were the first charges to appear on his criminal record after becoming an adult.
Court records show prosecutors were unable to contact their complaining witness, and when she failed to appear for the trial, the charges against Miske were dismissed.
On Feb. 5, 1993, just a week before Miske’s 19th birthday, police seized his car in connection with a burglary and theft case, according to a legal notice published later when the car was designated for forfeiture and sale.
In April 1993, Miske was charged with tampering with physical evidence, a misdemeanor, and again represented by Mohr in the Kaneohe District Court proceedings. These charges were thrown out after prosecutors acknowledged exceeding the 180-day limit for providing a “speedy trial.”
Then sometime around midnight on June 12, 1993, a red 1988 Honda Prelude was stolen from the Waikiki Theater parking structure. Several hours later, around 4:45 a.m., police found the car at Kainalu Elementary School in Kailua, where witnesses reported seeing two men drive up in another car, enter the school property, then remove the stolen car’s tires and rims, which they stacked next to the cafeteria. Along with the tires and rims, valued at over $2,000, they also took a CD player, about 40 CDs, two dozen cassette tapes, and a matching Hawaiian gold bracelet and ring valued at $800.
Soon after the two suspects left the scene, a responding police officer stopped their car. The driver was a 17-year-old male student at Kalaheo High School, and the getaway car belonged to his mother. Mike Miske was in the passenger seat. Their fingerprints were later found on the rims and wheel covers of the stolen car. Both were subsequently arrested and charged with theft in the second degree, with the younger man being referred to family court.
At the time of this arrest, the 19-year-old Miske was described as 6 feet tall, 150 pounds, with a slim build and tan complexion. He reported being employed at Honolulu Gold Werks in “jewelry maintenance.” Honolulu Gold Werks was a trade name registered by one of his father’s brothers, state business registration records show.
Just five days later, on June 17, 1993, Miske bought a red 2-door 1983 Honda Prelude from a private owner in Kailua. The following day, a similar 1986 red 2-door Honda Prelude was stolen from a car lot on North Nimitz, according to a Honolulu police report later filed in court in an unrelated proceeding.
And on June 20, the older car was found abandoned on Kapaa Quarry Road with its license plates and serial number removed. Although Miske was identified as the man who had purchased the car, it had been registered to another man, Bodie Suter.
The following month, Miske met a local man in a Mapunapuna parking lot and sold him a 1986 red Honda Prelude for $5,300 in cash, apparently using an altered version of the older car’s title to transfer the stolen car to the new buyer. Police records show Miske had already left the area with the cash before the buyer noticed the title misidentified the car as a 1983 model.
In August 1993, while the case of the switched red Honda Preludes was still being investigated, Miske and a cousin were charged with attempted theft, criminal property damage, and being in possession of burglary tools. Both defendants were represented by Mohr.
When the case came to trial in July 1994, nearly a year later, Mohr again argued prosecutors had exceeded the deadline for holding a “speedy trial,” and the judge agreed. The charges were dismissed. Prosecutors were given 30 days in which to refile the charges, but elected not to pursue the case.
But in December 1993, the investigation of the red Hondas moved forward when police were finally able to trace the stolen car to the man who bought it from Miske. The car was searched, and police found its serial number had been removed. Police confiscated the stolen car, and the unhappy buyer was out both the cash and the vehicle.
Before the police moved in, Miske was indicted for the theft and fraudulent use of credit cards, and charged with second-degree theft, a Class C felony. It was his first felony in a quickly escalating string of charges. The indictment landed just a month before his 20th birthday.
In February 1994, just a week after his 20th birthday, Miske and Bodie Suter were arrested for their buy-steal-and-switch scam involving the two red Hondas. Both men were unemployed at the time. Both were charged with second-degree theft.
Just two months after those charges were filed, on April 14, 1994, Mike Miske’s son, Caleb, was born, according to a birth notice published in a local newspaper. Miske and the child’s mother were not married.
Meanwhile, the cases involving the two red Honda Preludes dragged on in court for more than a year. Miske, now 21 and with an infant child, finally copped a plea in May 1995 in return for a lighter sentence. The plea included both the credit card theft and the theft and sale of the red Honda.
Prosecutors told the court Miske would qualify as a multiple offender and therefore be eligible for “enhanced” sentencing, but they agreed they would not seek any enhancement in the case.
In return, Miske entered a plea of no contest to all charges. He was then found guilty of fraudulent use of credit cards, and several counts of felony theft. He was sentenced to five years probation and 200 hours of community service, and ordered to pay $5,300 in restitution, the amount of cash he received when he sold the stolen car.
Despite receiving what in retrospect looks like a very lucky reprieve — probation instead of prison for his multiple convictions — Miske almost immediately got himself in serious trouble once again.
On May 17, 1995, just two days after his plea deal on the earlier charges was approved in court, a police officer stopped a black 1992 BMW four-door sedan seen speeding near Castle Medical Center just after 8 p.m. The officer asked the driver, later identified as Miske, for his license, registration and insurance card.
“The driver opened the glove compartment and a package fell out. The driver hid the package, removed the key from the glove compartment lock and began to start the car,” HPD Ofc. David Alices recounted in a later police report on the incident.
Alices said that when he went to the driver’s side of the car, the driver grabbed his arm and drove away, dragging him about 20 feet before he fell. The officer was treated at Castle for “a deep contusion to his left shoulder” which was considered by the examining doctor “to be a serious bodily injury,” case notes show.
The registered owner of the car, Rick Calhau, showed up at the Kaneohe Police Station about 2:30 a.m. to report the car had been stolen from behind his home. Calhau was a 28-year-old car enthusiast and the owner of The Tint Shop, an auto glass tinting company.
Calhau told police Mike Miske was “a good friend.” Calhau said Miske had driven the car before, but did not have permission to take the car that night.
Calhau told police Miske had left Oahu, but that he might know who had been driving the car. He refused to name the driver, and declined to take a lie detector test as suggested by police.
Calhau then said he wanted to speak to his attorney before making any further statement. He “then called a person named ‘Bodie’ to get the number of his attorney,” according to a police report on the incident.
The attorney was Reinhard Mohr, who explained to police he was representing the driver of the car and not Calhau.
“Bodie” was identified by police as Bodie Suter, “a known associate of Calhau” as well as the same person charged with Miske in the car theft and switch of the red Hondas two years previously.
After police positively identified Miske as the driver who had dragged officer Alices, a Crimestoppers news release was circulated which included the 21-year-old Miske’s photo. Miske was arrested early in the evening on May 26 at a home on Maunawili Road. He told police he was now a “self-employed glass tinter.”
On June 14, 1995, Miske was indicted on charges of kidnapping, a Class A felony, the most serious category of criminal offenses which carry the most serious potential sentences; first-degree attempted assault, a Class B felony; and speeding, a violation. He was released on $25,000 cash bail posted by his mother, Maydeen Stancil, court records show.
These were the most serious charges Miske had faced to date. The case was set for trial in September, and Mohr, his lawyer, began working on another plea deal.
On Aug. 25, 1995, while awaiting trial on the kidnapping and assault charges, Miske was arrested again for second-degree terroristic threatening. Arrested in the same incident, but charged separately, was Rick Calhau, the tint shop owner whose BMW Miske had been driving.
Charges against both men were eventually dismissed once again when the complaining witness, not identified in court records, failed to appear.
Meanwhile, after several weeks of negotiations, Miske agreed to another package deal, pleading guilty to all three charges, kidnapping, assault and speeding. He was formally sentenced in January 1996 to serve five years probation on each of three counts, to run concurrently. His mother’s bail was returned.
Miske was required to obtain and maintain full-time employment or educational/vocational training as approved by his probation officer. He was also required to submit at reasonable times to drug testing, and to allow searches of himself, his residence, his vehicle or other property under his control. In addition, he agreed to enter drug or mental health treatment if ordered to do so by the adult probation department and to remain until clinically discharged.
Mohr went back to court the following year and asked to amend Miske’s guilty plea to a no contest plea.
“No contest plea (is) in the best interest of the defendant,” the court minutes noted. The amended plea was approved. Court minutes do not reflect any further comment.
Miske complied with the terms of his probation by landing a job with Oahu Termite and Pest Control, a well-established termite treatment company. Miske learned the pest control business from the company’s owner, Harry Kansaki, according to Miske’s sworn statement filed earlier this year in an unrelated lawsuit. The job provided the experience that would eventually allow Miske to start his own company, Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, several years later.
And at that point, Miske faded from the public record for most of the remaining term of his five-year probation.
Some of his associates weren’t so lucky.
Six months after the court allowed Miske to amend his guilty plea to no contest, his friend, Tint Shop owner Rick Calhau, suddenly went missing.
On Nov. 21, 1996, Calhau left home in Kaneohe shortly after 10 p.m.
“He told his wife he was going to visit friends in Kalihi and would return in an hour. But he never returned,” the Honolulu Advertiser reported.
Calhau’s family posted 4,000 “missing person” fliers and offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to his return. The money was not claimed, and police considered his disappearance to be suspicious.
Calhau was never seen again. He was declared legally dead in 2004 by then-Circuit Court Judge Karen Radius.
With Calhau missing and presumed dead, his registration of the trade name of his business, “The Tint Shop,” expired. In November 1998, Miske registered the same trade name, state business registration records show.
The following year Miske registered a new company, The Tint Shop Inc., at 916 Queen St. and before long the tinting business moved to 940 Queen St., the building where Kamaaina Termite has operated for 20 years, and that federal prosecutors allege “served as a headquarters for the planning of criminal activities.”
Then in February 1997, Bodie Suter, who had been arrested with Miske in the case involving the two red Honda Preludes, was charged in federal court with the sale, distribution or dispensing of narcotics. Court records indicate he had been previously considered a known drug dealer.
Suter ended up pleading guilty and was sentenced to 135 months imprisonment (11-1/4 years), followed by five years supervised release. He was released from federal prison in April 2006, according to federal inmate records.
And in December 1999, another of Mike Miske’s cousins, Craig Ivester, was charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics and money laundering. Ivester’s mother and Miske’s mother are sisters, and the families lived close to each other in Waimanalo.
On the fourth day of Ivester’s trial, a discussion was held regarding “the jury’s concern for their safety,” court minutes show. Following questioning of the courtroom manager and jury clerk without the jury present, members of the jury were questioned, and the judge then addressed the jurors before the trial proceeded. Defense attorneys asked for a mistrial to be declared based on the jury’s concerns about their own safety. The motion was denied.
After a six-day trial, it took the jury less than a full day of deliberation to convict Ivester on two counts. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison on one count and 20 years on the other, court records show. He was finally released from federal custody on April 7, 2017.
Meanwhile, Reinhard Mohr was allowed to give up his law license in 1999 in lieu of facing disciplinary proceedings. Miske, now represented by attorney Michael Ostendorp, was back in court in December 1999 with a request to end his probation several months early. Miske’s probation officer told the court he had complied with all the terms and conditions, and she recommended early release. He was cut loose from court supervision just a few months later.
Miske, now 25 years old and with no visible financial resources, had just registered The Tint Shop Inc., a business using the same name as the one formerly owned and operated by his now-missing friend, Rick Calhau. And six months later, he registered Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control Inc., the company that federal prosecutors allege is at the center of a web of businesses used to promote and conceal his gang’s illegal activities for the last two decades.
Illustrations by John Pritchett.
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