A drug dealer who bought methamphetamine in California for sale in Hawaii has pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping and drug conspiracy charges linked to the case of Honolulu businessman Micheal J. Miske Jr.
Jonah Ortiz, 41, admitted to taking part in an October 2017 kidnapping of a Honolulu businessman with a co-defendant, Wayne Miller, and agreed to cooperate fully and testify against Miller as well as others if requested by prosecutors. Documents filed in the two men’s cases make clear prosecutors have tied him to the Miske case.
Ortiz and Miller were arrested in August 2018 after Ortiz returned from a drug buying trip to California. Both have been in federal detention since that time.
At the time of Ortiz’s plea deal, Miske had already been named in a secret June 2019 indictment for his alleged role in financing a major drug buy several years before, but had not been publicly charged. So although Ortiz pleaded guilty in open court, his case could not yet be tied to the still-secret Miske investigation.
In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop all other charges against Ortiz, including those from the 2018 drug case, and to provide credit for his cooperation when he was sentenced.
The Ortiz plea implicated Miller, who is now scheduled to appear before Judge Derrick Watson by video conference on Friday to plead guilty, apparently as part of a similar plea deal. A Nov. 12 entry on the court docket in Miller’s case added the Miske prosecution as a “related case.”
Prosecutors now allege Miller was among those “employed by and associated with” Miske’s broad racketeering conspiracy, which involved crimes ranging from kidnapping and murder-for-hire to armed robbery, bank fraud, arson, extortion, and money laundering.
Ortiz and Miller become the second and third felons with inside knowledge of Miske’s alleged criminal activities to be publicly cooperating with federal prosecutors.
Jacob “Jake” Smith, a “shooter” and martial artist who allegedly was paid by Miske to threaten or assault others, entered a guilty plea in early November and became the first to publicly turn on his former boss.
Ortiz admitted he and Miller carried out the Oct. 17, 2017 kidnapping and assault of a 72-year old victim identified in court documents only by the initials S.L.
According to an affidavit filed by Special Agent Joseph Villagomez of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the victim told police he received a telephone call from someone using the name “James,” who was seeking assistance with “business and personal tax matters.” They agreed to meet in a parking lot at Kewalo Basin near the old Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant.
“When S.L. arrived, two individuals showed S.L. oval colored law enforcement badges (gold in color), stated they were law enforcement, and tried to handcuff S.L.,” Villagomez recounted.
Ortiz later admitted he was one of the men, and identified Miller as the other. A struggle ensued and S.L. was punched and kicked “multiple times and forced into the back of an older model sedan,” the documents show.
“S.L.’s hands were bound behind his/her back and his/her face was covered with a thick bag,” according to the affidavit. Ortiz and Miller then “drove S.L. around for hours, threatening to kill S.L. if S.L. did not give them money.” After being held and threatened for several hours, S.L. gave the men his Visa check card.
After turning over his bank card, the victim was released near his car with tape wrapped around his face to cover his eyes.
Ortiz told investigators he knew Miller had a handgun during the kidnapping incident.
In August 2018, 10 months after the kidnapping, Ortiz and Miller were both arrested on federal drug charges. Before his arrest, Miller was driving an older model Ford Crown Victoria. A search of the car turned up documents bearing Miller’s name, along with multiple handguns, and multiple gold-colored police badges.
Court documents show Ortiz began cooperating with FBI agents soon after his arrest.
He admitted to bringing meth from California for sale in Hawaii, including providing drugs to Miller, who would in turn sell them to others. In early August 2018, Ortiz said he flew to California, bought a supply of drugs, and shipped two packages back. One, containing about a pound of meth, was sent to an unnamed clinic in Honolulu, while a smaller amount was sent to the Big Island. By that time, Ortiz had sent several other packages of drugs back to Hawaii, according to court documents.
Ortiz was arrested shortly after his return to Hawaii, and was found with “approximately 142 grams of methamphetamine, heroin, and oxycodone,” along with a .40 caliber handgun “with an obliterated serial number.”
In his plea agreement, Ortiz acknowledged he was facing a maximum possible sentence of life in prison. In January, he was sentenced to 188 months in federal prison on each of the two charges to run concurrently, followed by five years supervised release.
According to the allegations in Count 11, Miske ordered the kidnapping, and one of Miske’s co-defendants, Preston Kimoto, met and spoke with two co-conspirators, presumably Ortiz and Miller, while they were holding S.L. in their car.
The charge against Miske and Kimoto, conspiracy to commit kidnapping using a facility of interstate commerce, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.
In Trouble Before
Both Ortiz and Miller have serious prior criminal records.
Ortiz was charged with meth trafficking in 2002 after mailing a package containing about two pounds of meth to a Holualoa address on Hawaii island. He was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in federal prison, which was later reduced by two years “for post conviction cooperation.” He was on supervised release at the time of the 2017 kidnapping and his 2018 drug arrest.
In 2002, Miller was convicted in a state court for auto theft and leaving the scene of an accident that caused serious injury, along with a weapons offense.
And in 2005, then 21-year-old Miller was arrested for the 2001 robbery of the Windward Community Federal Credit Union in Kailua.
Miller entered a guilty plea to bank robbery and using a firearm in a violent bank robbery, court records show.
While Miller was awaiting sentencing, three people filed letters on his behalf, including Michael Miske and Edward Freitas. Their letters were both dated March 30, 2006.
Miske wrote as a self-described “successful business owner” and signed the letter as president of both Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, and Kamaaina Plumbing Co. He called Miller one of his few “true friends,” one who Miske considered “like my 3rd brother.”
“Miller is definitely one of those rare friends that I can always count on to be there for me if I ever needed anything,” Miske wrote. “That’s the number one quality that I admire in Miller is his loyalty as a friend.”
Freitas called Miller “a very good friend” who had been an employee previously in Nevada before Freitas moved back to Hawaii. He described Miller having “a heart of gold,” and said he would rehire Miller “without hesitation.”
Freitas signed his letter as president of Extreme Marble and Stone. At the time, Freitas, a licensed plumber, was the responsible managing employee for Miske’s Kamaaina Plumbing, a position he held for nearly another decade, state Professional and Vocational Licensing records show.
Freitas later left Kamaaina Plumbing, state records show, but his son, Kaulana Freitas, 32, is now one of Miske’s co-defendants. He has been charged with being a member of Miske’s racketeering conspiracy, allegedly releasing a dangerous termicide on the dance floors of two nightclubs, and conspiracy to illegally distribute prescription opioids.
Read Michael Miske Jr.’s letter to the court on behalf of Wayne Miller:
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Ian Lind is an award-winning investigative reporter and columnist who has been blogging daily for more than 20 years. He has also worked as a newsletter publisher, public interest advocate and lobbyist for Common Cause in Hawaii, peace educator, and legislative staffer. Lind is a lifelong resident of the islands. Read his blog here. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.