U.S. Justice Department Investigation
The U.S. Justice Department began investigating corruption and abuse of power within the Honolulu Police Department in December 2014.
The FBI stepped in at the urging of a Honolulu criminal defense attorney, Alexander Silvert, who had stumbled across police improprieties as he was defending a client in a federal criminal case.
The client, Gerard Puana, had been accused of stealing a mailbox belonging to then-Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, a deputy city prosecutor.
At the time Puana and his then-95-year-old mother, Florence, were suing Katherine Kealoha for allegedly duping them in a reverse mortgage deal and stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars that she then spent on lavish gifts for herself and her police chief husband, including a $25,000 breakfast celebration at the Sheraton Waikiki after he was named chief.
Silvert, however, believed that the Kealohas had worked with several HPD officers to frame his client for the mailbox theft so that they could undermine Puana’s credibility in the lawsuit.
The Puana criminal trial ended in mistrial, but Katherine Kealoha later prevailed in a civil case brought by Puana challenging her use of the family money.
A federal grand jury was empaneled and issued indictments in the case just before its two-year term expired in October 2017.
Louis and Katherine Kealoha along with five Honolulu current and former police officers — all members of the secretive Criminal Intelligence Unit — were arrested and charged with crimes related to the conspiracy including falsifying records and obstruction of justice.
The five police officers charged in October 2017 were:
- Daniel Sellers, a 20-year veteran of HPD who was a sergeant in the Criminal Intelligence Unit at the time of the mailbox theft.
- Officer Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, a “footman” in HPD’s Criminal Intelligence Unit who is accused of lying to federal investigators about his involvement in the mailbox conspiracy and cover-up.
- Derek Hahn, a lieutenant in HPD with 20 years of experience. Hahn was a high-ranking member of the CIU when the mailbox theft occurred. Federal prosecutors have described him as one of the ringleaders of the alleged conspiracy. He once owned a business, Discount Energy Solutions, with Katherine Kealoha.
- Former HPD Maj. Gordon Shiraishi who was the captain of the CIU when Gerard Puana was allegedly framed for the mailbox theft. He left the department in April 2017 after he was notified he was a target of the U.S. Justice Department’s corruption investigation.
- Niall Silva, now a retired HPD officer who worked in CIU during the mailbox theft. Silva admitted to falsifying documents and lying to federal investigators. He also admitted to lying on the witness stand during Gerard Puana’s criminal trial. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy in December 2016, which set into motion Louis Kealoha’s eventual retirement from HPD.
More arrests were considered likely as the Justice Department continued its investigation.
Louis Kealoha’s Severance Payment
Louis Kealoha retired as police chief in 2016 after being formally notified by the Justice Department he was a suspect in the investigation. He was given a controversial $250,000 severance payment in addition to his retirement of about $150,000 a year. He was required to repay the severance if he was convicted of a felony within six years.
Katherine Kealoha continued to work as a deputy prosecutor during much of the investigation including playing high-profile roles in some cases. She was put on unpaid leave when she was arrested.