by Andrew Walden
In recent gambling-related cases, targeting Tracy Yoshimura on Oahu, and Lance and Stacey Yamada on the Big Island, prosecutors have so far mostly come up short against individuals and corporate structures they claimed were behind illegal game room operations in Hawaii.
Obviously, the cases were filed in state courts.
Accused of running the business side of game rooms--as distinct from the rackets which extort ‘protection’ money and get the splashy headlines--the defendants so far have beat almost every rap. Instead, it was police and prosecutors who were exposed to personal and professional humiliation leading to shattered marriages, lost careers and prison.
What part of ‘mutually assured destruction’ did they not understand?
The more famous example involves Louis and Katherine Kealoha and Keith Kaneshiro.
The Kealohas’ downfall came after deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, backed by Honolulu County Prosecutor Kaneshiro, foolishly attempted to prosecute defendants including Tracy Yoshimura, the owner of PJY Enterprises, for illegal gambling at PJY-owned ‘Winner’z Zone’ storefront arcades raided by HPD in 2012 and 2013. Yoshimura, known for his impeachment petition against Kaneshiro, eventually sued over ‘malicious prosecution’ and, in August, 2020, agreed to a confidential out-of-court settlement with the City.
Yoshimura co-defendants in a series of cases brought by Katherine Kealoha regarding seizure of 77 ‘Products Direct Sweepstakes Machines’ include April Whiting-Haraguchi.
April is an active blogger. Her ‘Crunchbase’ bio explains: “Glenn Haraguchi and April Whiting Haraguchi are both owners of Champs Hawaii Sports Bar and Restaurant. Glenn Haraguchi and April Whiting Haraguchi also own the Xtreme 7D dark rides, located at the Ala Moana Mall, and Ka Makana Alii. Glenn Haraguchi and April Whiting Haraguchi are happily married.”
The Haraguchis are also co-defendants in the Hilo case. Lance Yamada, Stacy Yamada, the Haraguchis and others stand charged with felony gambling offences filed February 8, 2019, in 3rd Circuit Court by then-Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth--who is now Hawaii County Mayor.
Like ‘Winnerz Zone’, the Yamadas’ Triple 7 Amusements operated openly from a storefront. Triple 7 Amusement was a trade name owned by LY20, LLC, a Yamada company. According to DCCA BREG, Hilo Attorney Aaron S. Y. Chung, a 15-year Hawaii County Council member, is the “agent” of LY20 LLC.
Chung is not the only Hawaii County Councilmember in this story.
The Yamadas’ gambling has been prosecuted before--usually without success. In one set of interrelated 1998 cases, the alleged business and ‘protection’ sides of alleged gambling came together. Charges against Lance Yamada (3PC980000190), Stacey Yamada (3PC980000208), future Pali shooter Ethan Malu Motta (3PC980000229), and others were all dismissed for ‘nolle prosequi with prejudice’ in May, 1999.
Akamai readers will remember Motta was best friends with Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi. The Pali shooter’s gang likewise maintained business relations with Colleen Hanabusa and her husband then-Sheriff John Souza.
Retired Hawaii County Police Captain Chadwick Fukui and retired Hawaii County Police Detective Brian Miller are charged with tipping off the Yamadas prior to 2017 Hawaii County PD gambling raids. Miller is separately charged with stealing cocaine from a Hawaii County PD evidence locker in 2016.
Fukui's bio reads like an amalgam of the Kealoha cases: Formerly a candidate for Hawaii County Police Chief, Fukui once commanded Criminal Investigations Division Hilo-side and, after retiring in 2006, worked as an investigator for the county prosecutor.
Retired detective Ian Lee Loy is a key prosecution witness against Fukui.
The parallel cases produced parallel outcomes for the police and prosecutors who brought them.
Kaneshiro was ousted as Honolulu Prosecutor. Louis Kealoha lost his position as Honolulu PD Chief and Katherine Kealoha was ousted as Deputy Prosecutor and exposed as cheating with a Big Island firefighter. The Kealohas are both locked up in a Federal Penitentiary.
Meanwhile in Hilo, former Detective Lee Loy, who’s married to Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, was accused of beating up his wife’s alleged boyfriend, Neal Tanaka, then-acting deputy chief of the county’s Department of Public Works Building Division, in front of the County Building July 25, 2019. He retired from the Hawaii County PD six days after the alleged attack. He was later accused of domestic violence against his wife the Councilmember and on December 30, 2020, pled no contest to third-degree assault in that case.
As long as corrupt police and the underworld work together, we can expect the underworld to possess the intel necessary to successfully retaliate on police and prosecutors when certain lines are crossed.
UPDATE Aug 23, 2021: Lee Loy hit with ethics complaint: Business owner alleges conflict of interest in building code bill
PDF: Ethics Complaint