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Sunday, April 14, 2019
Unlucky and Unclean: How Not to Steal House 13
By Andrew Walden @ 10:23 PM :: 1529 Views :: Honolulu County, Environment, Ethics, Agriculture

by Andrew Walden

Unlucky and unclean.

With legal representation from Neil Abercrombie’s former Attorney General David Louie, former penny stock tout Jeffrey Dunster tried to use a bag full of receipts to claim ownership of a Big Island house known as ‘13’ from Pauuilo’s Kukaiau Ranch. 

It didn’t work.

Dunster’s carbon credit and timber futures scheme, Hawaii Legacy Hardwoods (HLH), has been evicted from its Honolulu headquarters and remains embroiled in litigation with Kukaiau Ranch, lessor of the 1,011 acres upon which HLH carbon credit trees are supposed to remain planted for decades to come. 

Exhibits presented to 3rd Circuit Court Judge Robert Kim by Dunster’s legal team include approximately $345,000 worth of photocopied receipts starting with purchases from Nordstrom and West Marine.  Dunster claimed they were receipts for improvements to House 13 and that the improvements were to be credited to a $275,000 purchase price for the house.  Another residence, “House 14”, was also to be sold to HLH for an additional $300,000. 

Instead, Judge Kim's ‘Findings of Fact’ deal yet another blow to Dunster and his carbon credit scheme.

Judge Kim, January 14, 2019, explains:

HLH argues that as a matter of law and equity the cost of improvements HLH expended on House 13 were to be credited to the BIB's purchase price under the terms of the Lease and Lease/Option of the House 13 Amendment….

Plaintiffs' receipts for alleged improvements to House 13 include many charges which are plainly not for improvements at all….

Plaintiffs' receipts submitted and filed with this Court and supposedly verified by HLH's principal, Mr. Dunster, were in large part for household items and removable personal property.

Thus, there is no admissible evidence to prove that any actual improvements to House 13, other than ordinary repair and maintenance, were ever made by HLH to House 13.

Some of the very same expenses which HLH is now alleging were for improvements to House 13 were earlier claimed by Mr. Dunster to be for improvements to a different house (House 14) in his Declaration to this Court.

The Court finds that Mr. Dunster's attempt to claim the same charges twice, for different houses, evidences "unclean hands" on the part of Plaintiffs and lack of credibility on the part of Plaintiffs' principal, Mr. Dunster.”

It’s a long fall from the halcyon days:  A 2011 HLH news release is titled: “Hawaii State Governor Neil Abercrombie Supports Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods Reforestation Initiative.” 

An April 10, 2012 email written by Kukaiau ranch attorney Peter Kubota is among the exhibits placed before Judge Kim.  Kubota explains:

There is a very revealing (March, 2012) Environment Hawaii article where John Henshaw laid out their plans the The Nature Conservancy (TNC) would get a Forest Legacy conservation easement on the 2700 acres plus Mueller, and HLH would exercise its option to buy the land at the discounted fee value after deduction of the easement.  It was clear in their minds, but not in ours that this was the game plan.  Of course, there was no option except in Jeff’s mind.  I think that it might have led to Henshaw’s resignation from TNC for conflict of interest, as we heard. 

The easement never came through. Abercrombie was unceremoniously booted from office in 2014.

Hawai’i Free Press asked Dunster when Kukaiau Ranch should expect to receive payment of the $54,126.19 damages ordered by Judge Kim.

Dunster replied:

All the judge’s findings of fact and orders in that case have been appealed.  And while we are disappointed with the results, we are confident we will prevail on appeal. In addition, the damages you mention are not due unless the Ranch prevails on appeal.  Further, said damages are nothing more than the cumulative alleged hold-over monthly rent that accrued during the case.

Dunster’s appeal was filed March 19, 2019 by David Louie’s associate Nicholas Monlux.  No date has yet been set to hear the appeal.

Dunster also pointed to an HLH news release announcing an arbitration award in a separate case, “Legacy Carbon, HLH, LLC Awarded $270,930.14 Against Streamline Consulting Group LLC.”

A search of PACER shows Streamline has appealed the award, alleging mathematical and legal errors.  By their calculation, HLH owes them $13,779.48.  Their appeal is set to be heard by Honolulu Federal Judge Susan Oki Mollway, May 20, 2019.

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