A deal would make Preston Kimoto the seventh of Miske’s original 10 co-defendants to plead guilty and agree to cooperate with prosecutors.

Another co-defendant in the federal case against alleged racketeering kingpin Michael J. Miske Jr. appears to be flipping on his former boss and trying to cut a deal with prosecutors, or may already have done so.

Preston Kimoto, 44, a former manager of Miske’s Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, and Oahu Termite and Pest Control, was arrested again in April for witness tampering.

The criminal complaint made public at the time of his arrest alleges Kimoto threatened a witness who knew of Kimoto’s role in arranging and carrying out the 2017 kidnapping and assault of a 72-year old Honolulu accountant, which Kimoto allegedly arranged using his position within the Miske organization. The kidnapping conspiracy is one of three charges against Kimoto in the original Miske indictment.

Following Kimoto’s witness tampering arrest, the initial April 19 deadline for prosecutors to file charges via a grand jury indictment or criminal “information” has been postponed three times — to May 19, June 16 and July 17 — by agreement between prosecutors and Kimoto’s attorney, Cynthia A. Kagiwada, federal court records show.

Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control building with obscured signs at 940 Queen street.
Preston Kimoto is a former manager of Miske’s Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, which federal prosecutors say Michael Miske used as the headquarters for his criminal enterprise. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020)

The multiple delays are a clear indication negotiations are underway behind the scenes for a plea deal, according to Ken Lawson, co-director of the Hawaii Innocence Project and a faculty specialist at the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law.

Before coming to UH, Lawson was a criminal defense attorney who often represented defendants in high-profile federal cases.

“If he (the defendant) is fighting the charge, the government has only a limited time to demonstrate it has probable cause for his continued detention,” Lawson said, based on his experience at defense counsel.

The agreements delaying Kimoto’s preliminary hearing show the defendant isn’t really fighting the charge, especially since there have been three consecutive one-month delays.

“Either you’re trying to work out a plea that is in your best interest, or a deal where you’re cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for some leniency in sentencing,” Lawson said.

Special Report

Read all of Civil Beat’s coverage on the Michael Miske case. Subscribe to our free Morning Beat newsletter to never miss an update.

If a plea agreement is reached, it would be another blow to Miske, who once owned a series of businesses, including the high-profile Kamaaina Termite and M Nightclub, a popular late night spot in downtown Honolulu. He also owned a company licensed as a used car dealer, a longline fishing boat, several Oahu homes, including a multimillion luxury home overlooking the ocean in Portlock that had been under construction for several years.

Kimoto would be the seventh of Miske’s original 10 co-defendants to plead guilty and agree to cooperate with prosecutors. In addition, at least 10 others who were charged separately but are tied to the Miske case also pleaded guilty. Most are cooperating with prosecutors and are likely to testify against their former associates in the upcoming trial. 

Kagiwada did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

The trial of Miske and the five remaining co-defendants is scheduled to begin in January.

The 2020 Indictment

The original 22-count indictment of Miske and co-defendants was made public at the same time they were taken into custody in a series of raids in July 2020. Miske faces charges that include conspiracy, murder-for-hire, kidnapping, assault in aid of racketeering, drug trafficking and bank fraud. Several of the charges were eligible for the death penalty, but the U.S. Justice Department later announced it would not seek that punishment as a result of a general moratorium by the Biden administration.

Kimoto was charged with being part of Miske’s overall racketeering conspiracy, as well as conspiracies involving kidnapping and drug dealing.

Despite the serious charges, Kimoto was freed on bond just a week after he was first arrested and remained free until the April 4 arrest for witness tampering. 

Witness Tampering

Prosecutors allege Kimoto threatened a witness with knowledge of the 2017 kidnapping and beating of an accountant in an attempt to intimidate the witness and stop her from cooperating with FBI investigators.

The kidnapping was triggered by the 2013 bankruptcy of a local firm that manufactured materials for steel frame buildings in which the kidnapping victim was principal stockholder and president. At the time of its bankruptcy filing, the company claimed less than $100,000 in assets and between $1 million and $10 million in debts.

Documents show Kimoto was a longtime friend of another local business owner who was angry after losing nearly $300,000 he had loaned to the bankrupt company and wanted the accountant kidnapped in an apparent attempt to recover his lost funds through extortion. Kimoto is believed to have been the person who carried the request to Miske, records show.

Miske then allegedly directed one of his top lieutenants, Wayne Miller, to carry out the kidnapping in which the accountant was held and assaulted over several hours. Both Miller and a second man who took part, Jonah Ortiz, have pleaded guilty and admitted to carrying out the assault. 

Ortiz is currently held in the federal correctional facility in Pollock, Louisiana. He is scheduled to be released in October 2032. Miller is being held at an unknown facility for his own safety pending the Miske trial, where Miller is expected to be a key witness.

Kimoto allegedly contacted his friend, or the friend’s daughter, and warned against speaking to the FBI, reminding them that Kimoto knew where they lived, worked and where the witness’ children went to school.

“Kimoto reiterated to Victim-A that he/she should not talk to law enforcement and then Victim-A would not have to worry about anyone coming to Victim-A’s home or the school Victim-A’s children attended,” according to an affidavit filed in federal court by FBI Special Agent Thomas J. Palmer.

Fearing for their family’s safety, the witness withheld information during initial contacts with investigators and later explained “he/she was fearful and scared for his/her life and the lives of his/her family based on Kimoto’s threats and his history of violence.”

Kimoto already faced a possible sentence of life in prison on the kidnapping conspiracy charge, a 10-year minimum sentence on the drug trafficking charge and a possible 20-year maximum for racketeering conspiracy. The new witness tampering charge could add as much as another 20 years in federal prison, creating a substantial incentive to plead guilty in exchange for a possible sentencing reduction.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author

  • Ian Lind
    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.