After a baby was reported missing and presumed dead in February, Honolulu police officials failed to take proper action and retaliated against a detective who criticized the department’s response, according to a whistleblower lawsuit filed on Thursday. 

Maile Rego, a detective in the child and family violence detail, alleges in her complaint that HPD was required to issue a timely Maile Amber Alert when 18-month old Kytana Ancog was reported missing on Feb. 10. 

“HPD utterly failed to do so,” the complaint states. 

HPD Seal before Police Chief Susan Ballard press conference.
The lawsuit says HPD failed to take immediate action in response to reports of a missing baby. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

After Rego, 41, notified an HPD lieutenant, the FBI and the Attorney General’s Missing Child Center Hawaii about the delayed response, she alleges that she faced retaliation: She was threatened with an investigation for unauthorized computer access for pulling up a report on Kytana’s case. 

The lawsuit also alleges gender discrimination unrelated to the Kytana case. It’s part of a pattern of discrimination and retaliation at HPD that has taken a physical and emotional toll, according to Rego and her attorney Joe Rosenbaum. 

“It’s affected my passion for what I used to love,” Rego said. “It’s my calling to protect kids. And everything that’s happened has hurt my soul. I get it, why people don’t want to speak up.”

HPD spokeswoman Sarah Yoro issued a brief statement about the lawsuit. 

We will be working with the city’s Corporation Counsel to address the allegations,” she said.

Kytana Ancog was just 18 months old when her father allegedly killed her. He has pleaded not guilty to her murder. 

Kytana was last seen on Jan 31 when her mother left her with her father, Travis Rodrigues, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. On Feb. 4, Rodrigues allegedly hit her in the face, shook her and squeezed her against his chest before she lost consciousness, the paper reported.  

The baby was reported missing at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Feb. 10, according to the lawsuit. HPD should have entered her information into Hawaii’s Missing Children Information Clearinghouse within two hours, the suit says. But that didn’t happen. 

“The postponed investigative response and the delayed notification to other law enforcement partners severely hindered law enforcement’s effectiveness and efforts,” the lawsuit says. 

Former HPD Chief Susan Ballard said earlier this year that Kytana’s case didn’t meet the criteria for a Maile Amber Alert, despite the child being in the care of a convicted felon, Hawaii News Now reported.

Rodrigues confessed to killing the child and putting her body in a duffel bag, the Star-Advertiser reported. Scott Michael Carter, Rodrigues’ acquaintance, allegedly disposed of the body, which has never been found. 

Rodrigues pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge. A hearing in October will determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial, court records show. Carter pleaded not guilty to a first-degree hindering prosecution charge. His case is ongoing.  

Faster action by HPD may not have saved the baby, but Rego believes it could have led to the recovery of her remains. 

Rego’s lawsuit also alleges that HPD prevented other law enforcement agencies from assisting in the investigation and attempted to cover up that Rodrigues was a confidential informant for the department’s narcotics division. 

Lawsuit Alleges Sex Discrimination

Rego has been a Honolulu police officer since 2006 and was promoted to detective in April 2014, according to her lawsuit. 

She worked on domestic violence cases and then child abuse cases. The lawsuit said her work troubles started last year when she was pursuing a position on an FBI task force. 

Her request to join the task force was held up unnecessarily by a Professional Standards Office investigation related to a dispute with her ex-husband, Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, according to the lawsuit. 

Nguyen had filed a custodial interference complaint against Rego regarding their daughter, but the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office dismissed it, the lawsuit states. HPD would ordinarily investigate that charge but sent it to the AG to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Rego said.

Nguyen is a former Honolulu police officer who was convicted for his role in the corruption case involving former police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, former deputy city prosecutor Katherine Kealoha. Katherine Kealoha is Rego’s aunt, although they are estranged, according to Rego. Rego said she cooperated with the federal investigators who put Kealoha and Nguyen in prison.

Rego alleges that HPD delayed her request to join the task force for almost a year due to negligence by the Professional Standards Office and discrimination based on her sex. 

Rego also alleges that supervisors favored male colleagues and discriminated and retaliated against her by assigning her weekend lockup duty, “a highly undesirable position;” doubling her workload; creating “an intimidating, hostile, and offensive work environment;” and removing her from a large workspace to one that was half the size. 

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