Federal prosecutors appear to have chalked up another guilty plea linked to the sweeping racketeering case against former Honolulu business owner Michael Miske Jr. and 13 co-defendants.
In the latest case, Steve B. Silva, 48, a groundskeeper with Honolulu’s Department of Parks and Recreation for about 15 years, was arrested in March 2020 and charged with attempting to possess and distribute more than a pound of methamphetamine. He was released just a week after his arrest on a $25,000 unsecured bond co-signed by his sister.
Silva pleaded guilty in December as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, who agreed to recommend a reduction in his sentence in exchange for his promise to cooperate with an ongoing investigation and, if requested, testify against others before a grand jury, in a trial, or other proceedings.
He is the seventh person with ties to what prosecutors refer to as the Miske Enterprise, but who has been charged independently of Miske’s case, known to have entered into similar plea deals requiring continued cooperation. In addition, two of Miske’s co-defendants have already pleaded guilty and are also cooperating with prosecutors.
The FBI appears to have focused on Miske’s extensive drug distribution network and used drug trafficking charges to turn former dealers into potential witnesses.
Although Silva’s links to Miske have not been disclosed in the court record in his case, state business registration records show Silva was a founder and registered agent of Cheers LLC, formed in late 2015 to operate the Four4 Bar & Grill, located on the second floor of a small strip mall along Kamehameha Highway in Kaneohe.
For at least a year after the bar opened, the Four4 was reportedly the informal headquarters of the Nakipi Motorcycle Club, a biker bar complete with a Nakipi sticker on its door.
Nakipi moved to a different venue at least three years ago, and the Four4’s Facebook page now features its food menu and regular appearances by Hawaiian musicians.
Norman Akau, a co-founder of Nakipi, pleaded guilty in June to a single count of racketeering conspiracy and admitted being part of Miske’s criminal gang. In exchange for his plea, and a promise to cooperate with prosecutors in their ongoing investigation, the government dropped several other charges that carried longer potential maximum and minimum sentences than the conspiracy charge.
Akau, along with Nakipi co-founder Zeph Salis and club “enforcer,” Lindsey Kinney, were all associated with Miske, and all worked as stagehands on movie sets and were members of IATSE, the union representing these movie crews. Akau served on the local union’s executive board until his indictment and arrest last year.
Salis already had racked up more than 70 criminal charges by the time he was convicted of robbing a woman at a Kaneohe ATM and a separate armed carjacking in 1997, and sentenced to an extended term as a repeat offender.
Salis was killed when he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into several parked cars along Mokulele Drive in May 2018.
Several sources have alleged the Miske Enterprise used some Nakipi members as “muscle” to collect outstanding drug debts, but no evidence of this has appeared in court records related to these cases beyond a generalized statement in the Miske indictment that the gang engaged in “the collection of extensions of credit by extortionate means.”
“An extortionate means is any means which involves the use, or an express or implicit threat of use, of violence or other criminal means to cause harm to the person, reputation, or property of any person,” according to the federal law defining “extortionate credit transactions.”
Kinney was the target of a March 2017 ambush at Kualoa Ranch during the filming of “Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom,” which is included as Count 8 in the Miske indictment, “Assault and Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering.”
In an Instagram video recorded immediately after the ambush, Kinney said he was set up by Akau and Salis, who told him Miske had driven to Kualoa to fight. But when he went to confront Miske, he was met by Miske’s half brother, John Stancil, along with Jake Smith, and at least one other man, with drawn guns. At least one shot was fired at Kinney, who was able to run from the scene unharmed, although it isn’t clear from the current record if additional shots were fired and, if so, by whom.
Kinney said the attempted “hit” took place because he had turned down an earlier offer of $50,000 to kill Jonathan Fraser, and later rejected $20,000 intended to buy his silence about the original approach.
Fraser, 21, disappeared suddenly in July 2016. Miske is charged with planning and directing his kidnapping and murder in a murder-for-hire plot.
Kinney said he had become “a loose end” that Miske was trying to eliminate.
Kinney has reportedly told others the $50,000 offer was conveyed to him by Akau, who was his boss on the movie crew as well as leader of Nakipi.
Kinney later met with FBI investigators, and testified before the grand jury that handed down the Miske indictment. He also gave an interview broadcast by Hawaii News Now describing the Kualoa incident.
Kinney reportedly told the FBI “someone named Steve” was moving drugs for Miske through the Four4 bar, where Nakipi members gathered.
Silva, a single father, who was hustling to support his family, had two other ventures, state business registration records show, I Unlock It Mobile LLC, and Kingdom Entertainment HI LLC, both of which are years behind in filing annual reports with the state and appear to be defunct.
In addition, Silva was a member of the Teamster’s movie unit which provides drivers for film productions, according to a letter from his uncle that is included in the court record in his case. Miske and Stancil have previously been identified as members of the same Teamster drivers unit.
Akau was indicted in June 2020 and arrested a month later, along with Miske and nine associates. He was charged with racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking, armed robbery, and two weapons offenses.
Akau cut a deal and pleaded guilty in June of this year to a single count of participating in the Miske Enterprise’s racketeering conspiracy.
Silva was arrested and charged in March 2020 after postal inspectors intercepted a package suspected of containing illegal drugs, later confirmed to be a pound of methamphetamine, according to a postal inspector’s affidavit attached to the preliminary charges.
After authorities switched out the drug for a look-alike substance, the package was delivered to a Kailua home on Oneawa Street by an undercover federal agent where it was accepted by a male later identified as Silva. State business registration records confirm Silva’s residence was in the 600 block of Oneawa.
When the package was opened, it triggered an alert to agents waiting outside, who then entered the house to execute a search warrant. They found Silva in the process of trying to hide or destroy the package’s contents in a pot on the stove and inside the toilet bowl in the bathroom.
He pleaded guilty in December to a single charge of attempting to “possess with intent to distribute” a quantity of methamphetamine.
The charge carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison, up to a maximum of 20 years. Silva is scheduled to appear before Senior U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor for sentencing on Sept. 30.
On Aug. 31, the assistant U.S. attorney handling Silva’s case was replaced by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Inciong, who is the lead prosecutor on the Miske Enterprise case.
Silva is represented by prominent Honolulu defense attorney Michael Jay Green.
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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.