Honolulu businessman Michael J. Miske Jr., in federal custody awaiting trial on charges of controlling a criminal racketeering conspiracy, allegedly directed one of his associates to arrange an attack on a Kakaako nightclub by releasing a toxic chemical on a crowded dance floor, agreed to pay the associate $3,000, then checked in by phone and even appeared at the scene before the attack to be sure the plot was going as planned.
The previously undisclosed details of the 2017 chemical attack on the Ginza Night Club in Kakaako are contained in a 19-page plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu last week.
Ashlin Akau, a former standout volleyball player for Kailua High School and an OIA East all-star in the 2008 season during her senior year, appeared before federal Judge Derrick K. Watson on Thursday morning and pleaded guilty to carrying a container of the toxic chemical chloropicrin into the Ginza and pouring it onto the dance floor shortly after midnight on a busy Saturday night in March 2017.
Ginza Night Club was a popular dance club on Kona Street just a block from Ala Moana Center. It opened in 2009 and closed its doors for good on May 25, 2019.
Chloropicrin is a powerful insecticide controlled by federal law, and is legal when used as directed by properly trained and licensed users. In Hawaii, it is typically used to control termites. When used for other than peaceful purposes, the chemical is considered a weapon.
Akau, 30, was charged under a federal law that provides that a toxic chemical can be considered a “chemical weapon” when it is not used for its intended purpose.
The maximum possible sentence if convicted of using a chemical weapon is life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors agreed not to charge Akau with conspiracy to use the chemical weapon, a separate felony offense. In addition, Akau will not be charged for her participation in robberies of drug dealers by Miske associates, which she also disclosed to investigators.
As part of the plea deal, Akau agreed to cooperate fully with investigators and prosecutors, and to testify if requested in any upcoming proceedings, including appearing before any future grand jury or appearing at trial to testify against others.
Akau has no prior history of criminal arrests or convictions, a review of court records shows. She is currently free on a $25,000 unsecured bond.
Akau’s attorney, Michael Green, reached by telephone on Monday, declined to discuss how his client had gotten involved with the plot.
However, Green said Akau wasn’t aware she was releasing the toxic chemical chloropicrin.
“She thought it was pepper spray,” Green said.
With Judge Watson’s approval of the plea agreement, Akau became the sixth person to be publicly known to have cut deals with prosecutors, pleading guilty to reduced felony charges and agree to testify about crimes allegedly directed by Miske, or carried out to benefit the “Miske Enterprise.”
And the number could be higher.
“There are at least a dozen or so people locked up at the Federal Detention Center who are going to testify against Miske,” attorney Green said.
Ashlin Akau’s plea agreement contains previously undisclosed details of the chemical attack on the Ginza nightclub in the early morning hours of March 5, 2017, the second of two attacks allegedly carried out on Miske’s orders.
Akau said she was first recruited by Norman Akau III “to assist with robberies of drug dealers,” according to the plea agreement.
There is no indication Norman Akau and Ashlin Akau are related.
Norman Akau is one of Miske’s co-defendants in the racketeering case, and an alleged conspirator and member of what prosecutors refer to as the Miske Enterprise. Ashlin Akau’s reference could be to a 2016 armed robbery in which Norman Akau and John Stancil, Mike Miske’s younger brother, along with two other members of the Miske gang, allegedly stole a stash of methamphetamine from another dealer, part of what prosecutors say was “a campaign of violence waged by Miske and the Enterprise on his rivals.”
Prosecutors say Norman Akau was “one of the key perpetrators” who allegedly robbed the known drug dealer, who prosecutors refer to as Victim-4.
“The robbery began with Enterprise members in separate vehicles blocking the vehicle in which Victim-4 was riding,” prosecutors said in a motion last year seeking to keep Norman Akau in detention pending trial.
Prosecutors alleged Akau was impersonating a police officer when he approached the victim’s car, “wearing a police badge and holding a walkie-talkie,” and carrying two guns, one equipped with a silencer.
“Other masked Enterprise members, some brandishing firearms, then stole approximately five pounds of methamphetamine belonging to Victim-4 from the vehicle’s trunk,” prosecutors said. “After the robbery, all the participants met near a gym in Waimanalo and split the drugs up amongst themselves.”
There is no information in the public record regarding the part Ashlin Akau played in this or other similar incidents.
However, according to the plea agreement, she was then recruited by Jacob “Jake” Smith to assist in other armed robberies. Prosecutors allege Stancil and Smith, a “shooter” and martial artist, along with other members of Miske’s gang, carried out a string of robberies of other drug dealers beginning in 2015 and continuing until sometime in 2018.
Based on Smith’s experience with Ashlin Akau during the robberies, he then recruited her “to assist him with the chemical weapon attack on Ginza,” according to Akau’s plea agreement.
According to Akau’s account, Smith told her Miske “was going to pay Smith $3,000 for carrying out the job,” which Smith offered to split with her if she would help him.
Smith also told Akau that Miske “needed a girl to do it” because an attack the night before had prompted increased security at other clubs, and that “the boys” were now getting stopped when trying to enter.
According to Ashlin Akau, Smith explained to her “that Miske owned a nightclub down the road, that he wanted everyone to go to his nightclub, and that the attack would make customers not want to go to Ginza.”
The Miske-owned club is not named in the plea agreement. Miske was the owner and manager of the M Nightclub in downtown Honolulu which closed in November 2016 after a series of high-profile assaults brought criminal charges, lawsuits and liquor commission scrutiny.
However, the June 2020 federal indictment alleges Encore Nightclub, which opened in the same location after the M Nightclub closed, was also controlled by Miske and was one of the businesses that operated as part of his criminal organization.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, Smith picked up Akau and drove to Stancil’s home, where he picked up several bottles containing the termicide chloropicrin. The pair then drove toward the Ginza nightclub on Kona Street in Kakaako and parked near the club.
Akau said she overheard a telephone call between Miske and Smith, and understood “Miske wanted them to wait until after midnight in order to assure that Ginza was crowded.” They ended up waiting about three hours before proceeding.
According to Akau’s account, Miske made a personal appearance at the scene close to midnight, pulling up next to them so Smith could get into his car. Smith returned in about 15 minutes, and said “Miske just wanted to make sure that Akau was ‘okay’ and that everything was going to go as planned.”
Sometime around 1 a.m., Akau entered the club and poured the toxic chemical onto the crowded dance floor. Prosecutors say release of the chemical sent “patrons of the nightclubs scrambling for the exits as they experienced burning in their eyes and difficulty breathing.”
“Akau herself began coughing and her eyes became severely irritated, and she suffered a burn where she had been holding the bottle,” according to her plea agreement.
Prosecutors also filed a document in court confirming Ashlin Akau’s guilty plea is related to the 22-count federal indictment of Miske and 10 co-defendants.
Among the charges against Miske and Stancil are one count of conspiracy to use a chemical weapon, and two counts of using a chemical weapon, including the incident Akau has now pleaded guilty to being part of. A third man, Kaulana Freitas, whose mother is Miske’s cousin, is charged with conspiracy and dispersing the chemical in another club the night before the Ginza attack.
The charges against Miske relating to use of a chemical weapon have been overshadowed by four capital crimes he is charged with, which are punishable by life in prison or a possible death penalty.
But the chemical weapons charge also carries a potential life sentence, and Akau’s recent plea indicates the federal investigation is ongoing and continuing to gather additional evidence.
Akau’s account appears to corroborate previous disclosures by Smith, who has been in federal custody since being arrested on drug charges in August 2018. He pleaded guilty in November 2020 to being a member of Miske’s criminal organization, and conspiring with Miske and others “to conduct the affairs of the Miske Enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity.”
In his plea agreement with prosecutors, Smith admitted to driving others on two consecutive nights to carry out the chemical attacks, which he said were done on Miske’s orders.
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped the pending drug charges against Smith.
The parallel admissions by Jake Smith and Ashlin Akau appear to outline a strong case tying the chemical attacks to Miske, whose Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control became a well-known name during its two decades in business. The company ceased operations in July after Miske was arrested, company records were seized as evidence and its pest control licenses were cancelled by state regulators.
“They are obviously building a net around Miske,” attorney Green said.
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