Honolulu’s ex-police chief Louis Kealoha has begun paying restitution more than three years after he was convicted in one of Hawaii’s most notorious corruption scandals.

The checks were supposed to start going out within 30 days of Kealoha entering prison in July 2021. But payments didn’t start until last month, according to Eric Seitz, an attorney for the recipients, Gerard Puana and the estate of Florence Puana.

“We kept inquiring over a period of several months and repeatedly were told the payments were coming, but I have received no explanations for the delays,” Seitz said Tuesday in an email.

Louis Kealoha arrives at US District Court after plea deal.
Louis Kealoha is serving a seven-year sentence in federal prison. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

Kealoha was convicted in 2019 of conspiracy and obstruction of justice alongside his estranged wife, former prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, and two Honolulu police officers. The parties plotted to frame Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana, for stealing the couple’s mailbox in an effort to discredit Puana’s claims that Katherine had stolen money from him and his elderly mother, Florence Puana.

The Kealohas, along with former HPD officers Derek Hahn and Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, were found guilty by a jury and are currently serving time in prison.

Florence, who was Katherine’s grandmother, died in 2020 at 100 years old.

At sentencing, the court ordered Katherine Kealoha to pay more than $46,000 to Gerard Puana and $243,000 to Florence Puana’s estate. Louis Kealoha was ordered to pay over $11,500 to Gerard Puana and more than $60,000 to Florence Puana’s estate.

The first checks came in last month from Louis Kealoha, according to Seitz. Gerard Puana received $954.89 and the Florence M. Puana Trust received $2,795.11 in checks dated Oct. 17. They should continue to receive monthly payments, he said.

Both Kealohas received taxpayer-funded defense attorneys after they claimed to be indigent, but Louis Kealoha continues to receive a pension of about $9,700 a month. A new pension forfeiture law aimed at seizing retirement payouts for government employees convicted of corruption doesn’t apply to him because it was passed after his misconduct occurred, and the law is not retroactive.

Seitz said he hasn’t received anything from Katherine Kealoha.

“Katherine has nothing,” he said.

If Katherine’s portion is left unpaid, Louis will be on the hook to pay it, according to Puana’s one-time public defender, Ali Silvert.

The Kealohas also pleaded guilty to additional crimes in October 2019. Katherine Kealoha pleaded guilty to charges that she used her law enforcement position to protect her brother, Rudy Puana, who was running a drug ring on the Big Island. Rudy Puana was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison.

Both Louis and Katherine Kealoha also pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges after obtaining several fraudulent loans and stealing the inheritance of two children for whom Katherine was a financial guardian. Those children, Ransen Taito and Ariana Taito, who lost more than $165,000 in the scheme, are owed slightly more than that amount in restitution, according to court records.

Whether they have received any payments so far is unclear. Ariana Taito couldn’t be reached, and Ransen Taito declined to comment.

In addition to restitution, Louis Kealoha needs to pay back a $250,000 severance payout that was initially granted by the Honolulu Police Commission in 2017. A judge ordered the return of the money in 2020, but as of earlier this year, no payments had been made.

The delivery of that payout is now the focus of a criminal indictment involving three former city officials – former city attorney Donna Leong, former managing director Roy Amemiya and former Police Commission chair Max Sword – all of whom have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges.

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