Late on the morning of Friday, Nov. 6, while most of the country was awaiting the final count of presidential ballots cast three days earlier, Jacob “Jake” Smith appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson via video conference from the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu to plead guilty to drug and racketeering charges.
In a plea agreement filed in federal court, Smith admitted that beginning by at least 2015 and continuing until August 2018, he was part of the criminal gang organized and directed by Michael Miske, owner of Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, and several other companies.
Miske and 10 others were arrested in July and charged with a number of federal offenses including racketeering conspiracy, murder for hire, kidnapping, armed robbery, drug dealing, extortion, bank fraud and money laundering. They are now scheduled to face trial in late 2021.
In court filings, federal prosecutors have repeatedly referred to grand jury testimony by witnesses including “numerous cooperating defendants,” but Smith is the first Miske insider to publicly agree to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against his former associates.
Smith, 27, described in the plea agreement as “a skilled martial artist,” admitted he had been “on call” to commit violent assaults on victims when requested by Miske, for which he would be paid $1,500 to $2,000 per “job.” His plea agreement then outlines his participation in a series of incidents involving assaults, armed robberies, attempted murder, extortion and drug dealing.
Smith’s potential testimony, outlined in the plea agreement, ties Miske directly and personally into a pair of murder-for-hire schemes, and provides first-hand accounts of violent actions by the Miske-led criminal organization.
Smith has been in federal custody since August 2018, when he was busted for providing methamphetamine to a lower-level drug dealer, who then sold the drugs to a buyer who turned out to be cooperating with authorities. Smith’s co-defendant in the 2018 case, Timothy Taboada, pleaded guilty a year ago, in November 2019, and named Smith, along with Miske co-defendants Lance Bermudez and Hunter Wilson, as sources of significant quantities of drugs which he then sold in Kaneohe and elsewhere.
Taboada’s testimony implicated Smith, Wilson and Bermudez, but he was not in a position to provide direct testimony about Miske. However, his testimony may have provided leverage prosecutors needed to “flip” Smith and convince him to testify against Miske.
Charges were filed against Smith on Oct. 1, 2020, for his role in the Miske Enterprise, as federal authorities have labeled it. The proceeding was separate from the case of Miske and his co-defendants, and was overlooked by reporters closely following the Miske case. Smith and his attorney signed off on the plea agreement on Oct. 29. It was filed in federal court during the video hearing before Watson on Nov. 6.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the 2018 drug charge, and agreed not to bring any additional charges against Smith stemming from the earlier case. In exchange, Smith agreed to cooperate and testify truthfully and fully in any proceedings, including any grand jury proceeding or trial of any co-defendants, and to answer questions from investigators about other matters he has knowledge of. Smith consented to a delay in his sentencing date depending on “the government’s need for the defendant’s continuing cooperation.”
The 30-page plea agreement ticks off a number of specific criminal acts Smith has admitted.
Smith admitted to discussing and helping to arrange a murder-for-hire contract, although the plea agreement notes “no one died as a result of Smith’s efforts.”
According to the plea agreement, Miske put out a murder contract on someone identified only as “Victim-1.”
Miske asked Smith to arrange an introduction to Lance Bermudez, known to Smith and to Miske’s brother, John Stancil, as a “shooter.”
Smith, Miske and Bermudez, nicknamed “Hammah,” then met at Kamehameha Shopping Center in Kalihi to discuss the contract, according to the document.
Stancil later told Bermudez and Smith that Miske was offering $250,000 to carry out the murder, according to the plea agreement. Smith said he would not participate, “but he understood Bermudez was interested …”
Bermudez and another Miske co-defendant, Dae Han Moon, later told Smith they had taken guns and waited outside the target’s house for a chance to take a shot at him, but Victim-1 “never came outside” while they were there. Smith offered no information about additional attempts.
Neither does his plea agreement provide any additional information about the disappearance, and alleged kidnapping and murder of Jonathan Fraser in July 2016. The elder Miske blamed Fraser for the November 2015 traffic accident in which Miske’s son, Caleb, was fatally injured, and prosecutors allege Miske took revenge by contracting for Fraser’s murder.
Smith said he agreed to take part in carrying out a 2017 murder contract Miske had placed on “Victim-2” that appears to be related to the Fraser case. Based on the circumstances, Victim-2 appears to have been Lindsey Kinney, who has publicly disclosed Miske offered him the contract to kill Fraser, which he declined. Kinney said that by turning down the contract, and then refusing to accept a payment to keep silent about the offer, he became a problem for Miske.
Smith’s account of Miske’s attempt to contract for Victim-2’s murder adds further details.
“Miske asked Smith and Stancil to find him a hitman” to kill Victim-2 (Kinney), according to the plea agreement.
At the time, Smith was a regular visitor to an eight-unit building on Keokeo Place in Hawaii Kai, where Miske was living at that time, according to a former resident who was also living there. It was the same building where Fraser was living when he suddenly disappeared the previous year.
On May 23, 2017, Miske drove Smith, Harry Kauhi and Stancil to Kualoa Ranch, where they planned to ambush Kinney, who was working as a rigging grip during the filming of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” Miske checked that Stancil and Smith were both armed, according to Smith’s account. When they got close to Kinney, they pulled out their guns. Smith, in his plea agreement, said he fired but “purposely missed,” and could not say whether Stancil had also gotten a shot off.
Later, text messages exchanged by Miske and Smith between December 2017 and August 2018 continued to discuss the need to get Kinney, although they do not reveal whether any additional attacks were attempted.
The ambush at Kualoa launched Kinney on an angry and very public Instagram rant in which he publicly named the three men involved, and directly called out Miske. It seems likely this public tirade, implicating Miske, Stancil and Smith, provided a break federal investigators probing Fraser’s disappearance had needed.
Several months later, in August 2017, the FBI executed a search warrant and seized the Boston Whaler “Painkiller,” which prosecutors allege was used in the disposal of Fraser’s body. The boat is owned by Hawaii Partners, another company controlled by Miske. And the following year, the FBI offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for Fraser’s disappearance.
Kinney was cited on Aug. 29 for violating Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s COVID-19 emergency orders while leading an anti-COVID lockdown convoy that drove from Waimanalo Beach Park to Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in Kahuku, where a large crowd gathered, many without masks and without required social distancing. According to the citation, Kinney appeared to be in charge and “telling the crowd what to do.” A criminal complaint for violating the mayor’s emergency rules was filed on Oct. 27.
Then on Nov. 9, a house on Lamaula Road in Kahaluu where Kinney was living was raided by HPD. Kinney was arrested for a firearms violation and third-degree promotion of harmful drugs.
Smith said Miske paid him about $1,000 in March 2017 to beat the co-owner of an unidentified Honolulu nightclub during a meeting at the offices of Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control on Queen Street in Kakaako. Miske told Smith to attack the person when he signaled by scratching his head.
“Miske and that individual were seated facing each other,” according to the plea agreement. “While they spoke, Smith came up behind the individual, and when Miske scratched his head, Smith began to beat the individual with his fists.”
While Smith was beating him, Miske “berated” the individual about a Rolex watch apparently belonging to another Miske associate. The document does not explain what about the watch triggered Miske’s anger.
In another incident, on March 4, 2017, Miske handed Smith a baton, and took him to a karaoke bar where one of Miske’s girlfriends was working. Smith then said he “brandished the baton” while Miske demanded the bar give the woman use of a private lounge. Faced with Smith’s threat of violence, the bar owner backed down and agreed to Miske’s request.
On the prior evening, March 3, Smith said he took part in a chemical attack on a Honolulu nightclub. Smith said he drove Miske co-defendant Kaulana Freitas to the home of John Stancil, where they picked up a container of the termicide, chloropicrin, used by Kamaaina Termite. Smith then drove Freitas to the unidentified nightclub, where Freitas entered and released the chemical, sending customers “scrambling for the exits as they experienced burning in their eyes and difficulty breathing.”
Smith was the driver again the next night, when a second nightclub was hit by a similar chemical attack.
On April 6, Freitas was driving when his car was stopped and searched by police, who found a gun, ammunition “and a liquor bottle containing chloropicrin” inside the car. Government witnesses said the bottle was the same kind used in the nightclub attacks the month before.
The motive for these particular attacks is not disclosed in the document. Miske’s own M Nightclub, in which he was part-owner and manager, went out of business in late 2016 after a series of violent assaults against customers, a string of lawsuits and a Honolulu Liquor Commission investigation. The plea agreement does not indicate whether chemical attacks might have been part of an extortion attempt.
The plea agreement also describes several armed robberies in which Smith participated.
These included robberies of illegal game rooms, and a 2016 robbery in which Smith, Bermudez and two others took 2 pounds of meth from another dealer and “divided the drugs among themselves.” Smith gave his share to Tim Taboada for resale to others.
Smith and Taboada later became co-defendants in the 2018 drug case that led Taboada to identify Smith as one of his primary drug sources, and in turn led to Smith’s plea agreement implicating Miske and other associates in this litany of crimes.
Read the plea deal.
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