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Thursday, January 19, 2023
January 19, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:04 PM :: 2743 Views

Coast Guard Tracking Two Russian Vessels off Hawaiian Coast--one towing the other

Palau, Marshall Islands Sign MOU to Extend Compact of Free Association

ODC: Green Energy Lawyer Paid Kickback to get $1000/hour legal fees

Four Hawaii Correctional Officers Sentenced for Abusing Inmate and Conspiring to Cover Up Abuse

A lively conversation about the Jones Act, pro and con

Let the sun shine in

Opening Day: Former Chief Investigator Sues Hawaii Attorney General’s Office for Refusing to Prosecute Corruption

CB: … Hanagami first aired his grievances with the AG’s office publicly last year during legislative hearings over a proposed fraud unit in the office and during Shikada’s confirmation hearing. The former chief investigator claimed that the office was not pursuing cases forwarded to it.

Trouble with the office started as early as 2021, when Hanagami had a series of meetings with former state AG Clare Connors, who questioned Hanagami’s judgement and leadership ability. Connors also brought misconduct charges against Hanagami, who denied those charges were true….

Hanagami filed a complaint with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission around the time of those meetings….

Hanagami believes that attempts to oust him had to do with legislation proposed last year that created a new Department of Law Enforcement, which will eventually take over some of the policing and investigative duties currently managed by the AG’s office. In his view, such a move would diminish his authority….

read … Former Chief Investigator Sues Hawaii Attorney General’s Office

Opening Day: John Waihee’s Favorite Trump-era influence peddler sentenced to prison

HNN: … Saying she lacked remorse and took no responsibility for her actions, a federal judge on Wednesday sentenced a Kahala woman to two years in prison for her role in a Trump-era influence peddling scheme.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi also fined Nickie Lum Davis $250,000 and ordered her to complete three years of supervised release. Davis, a Punahou School graduate, also agreed to pay $3 million in restitution to the government….

Court documents show that Davis and her former partner ― ex-Republican National Committee official Elliott Broidy ― attempted to arrange meetings between officials in President Donald Trump’s administration and supporters of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Razak was arrested in 2018 and was later sentenced to 12 years in prison for the theft of $4.5 billion in the country’s 1MDB scandal….

John Keller, of the U.S. Justice Department’s public integrity section, said in court on Wednesday that Davis was paid about $10 million by Razak’s supporters and the Chinese government….

As part of her $3 million restitution deal with the federal government, Davis agreed to pay $10,000 a month to the government.

In her court papers, she said she is in the process of selling her Kahala home for $7.5 million and that her family’s expenses are about $59,000 a month.

Davis must surrender to federal authorities on April 14 at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif….

read … Hawaii woman at center of Trump-era influence peddling scheme sentenced to prison

Opening Day: Ex-Navatek CEO Pleads Not Guilty To Mortgage Fraud In Hawaii

CB: … Kao is the former CEO of Navatek, now called PacMar, a Honolulu-based company that designs ships for the Navy. He pleaded not guilty to one count of bank fraud.

In 2020, Kao sought a $3 million loan to buy 4902 Kahala Ave. for $4.5 million, according to the indictment. It added that Kao digitally altered several documents from his brokerage by adding zeros to his reported wealth when asked to provide financial statements….

For instance, $83,880.59 became $8,388,00.59, according to the indictment.

Federal prosecutors say he also inflated the amount of money he had paid on a different loan, falsely stating that he had paid $4.1 million when it was really $4,100.

In the end, the bank approved the loan, and Kao closed on the Kahala property around June 2020. …

The latest case follows his guilty plea last year to Covid relief fraud charges. Kao obtained more than $12.8 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans by submitting numbers that falsely inflated his payroll. His sentencing in that case is scheduled for March 29.

Meanwhile, Kao has also pleaded guilty to charges in Washington, D.C. for making illegal campaign contributions to Maine Sen. Susan Collins. He has a public defender in that case, which is scheduled for sentencing on May 10.

read … Ex-Defense Contractor Pleads Not Guilty To Mortgage Fraud In Hawaii

Opening Day: Miske Lawyer Still on the Case--For Now

ILind: … Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield today denied a motion by attorney Thomas Otake to end his representation of accused drug and racketeering kingpin Michael J. Miske, Jr.

In the motion filed on Friday, Otake said prosecutors had approached him with information about an issue they believe had created an “unresolvable conflict of interest” for the attorney. The substance of the information was not disclosed.

Today’s hearing quickly adjourned while the courtroom was cleared and locked. The sealed hearing continued with only Miske, his attorneys–Otake, Lynn Panagakos, and Reno-based Michael Jerome Kennedy, and Mansfield. The hearing minutes indicate there was discussion between the attorneys and Miske, followed by a conversation between Judge Mansfield and Miske “to determine if there is any breakdown in communication.”

The closed hearing lasted for 30 minutes.

When it was over, the courtroom was unlocked, and Mansfield denied Otake’s motion to withdraw. So, for now at least, Otake remains part of Miske’s legal team.

However, Otake and Panagakos still face a hearing next month on the government’s motion to disqualify both because of conflicts stemming from two fraudulent character reference letters they collected and later submitted in court seeking to gain Miske’s release from the Federal Detention Center pending trial. The letters are the basis for two obstruction of justice charges against Miske added in a third superseding indictment last month. Prosecutors say this creates an untenable situation in which either or both attorneys may be called as witnesses to these allegedly criminal acts by their client.

read … Judge denies Miske attorney motion to withdraw from criminal case

Hawaii Gov Signals He'll Sign Ethics Reform Bills--But Only if They Land On His Desk

CB: … Putting pressure on lawmakers, Gov. Josh Green said Wednesday that he is strongly inclined to approve major parts of a package of government reform legislation if they are approved by the Hawaii Legislature.

Specifically, Green was asked about 31 proposals recommended by a special committee to help restore public trust in state and county government. Twenty-eight of them are proposed bills that would require his signature in order to become law.

“If they send it to me, I’m signing it, period,” Green said Wednesday in his fifth floor office at the State Capitol….

SA Column: Foley commission’s plan can restore trust in government

read … Hawaii Gov Signals He'll Sign Ethics Reform Bills That Land On His Desk

Bill: 100% Tax on Home Price Increase

HNN: … Senator Awa’s bill goes after the Hawaii Real Property Tax Act.

“If I buy a house, and I’m a non-resident, for $800,000, and I wanted to go sell it for a million dollars, well, today, I can do that, and I have to pay 7.5% of that $200,000 gain. Well, we’re trying to do is make it 100%,” he said.

SB34 passed its first reading on Wednesday ….

REALITY: Constitutional Restrictions on Taxation of Nonresidents

read … Proposal aims to increase housing for locals by targeting non-residents

Bill: 25% TAT on Short Term Rentals

CB: … “Our quality of life is negatively impacted, our housing availability,” Holt said. “It has raised the cost of rents, it has raised the cost of buying a home. … The reality is, my community is suffocating.”

Residents have complained about the proliferation of short term vacation rentals in their communities for years. In response, Holt plans to introduce a package of bills that will strictly regulate and heavily tax vacation rentals. Holt said he wants to raise the transient accommodations tax on short term rentals up to 25%

In addition, Holt said he hopes to clear up legal loopholes that are allowing short-term rentals to persist.

Short term rentals are defined as accommodation of less than 30 consecutive days according to the City and Council of Honolulu. These short term rentals are only allowed in certain areas, which vary by county….

read … Tourists, Guns, Business: Here’s What Hawaii Lawmakers Plan To Tackle In 2023

Senate Bill 125 would increase the “tip credit” amount to match 20% of the Hawaii minimum wage

CB: … Senate Bill 125 would increase the “tip credit” amount to match 20% of the Hawaii minimum wage, starting Jan. 1, 2024. The bill was introduced by Sen. Glenn Wakai, Sen. Sharon Moriwaki and Sen. Maile Shimabukuro….

read … Tourists, Guns, Business: Here’s What Hawaii Lawmakers Plan To Tackle In 2023

Opening Day: Makaha Beach Thug Interrupts Speaker’s Remarks--“You guys talking about money--We First”

HNN: … The man who shouted at lawmakers and first responders during the opening session of the state Legislature on Tuesday is Samson Souza — a known Native Hawaiian activist in West Oahu.

He faces a misdemeanor charge for disrespect of a House of the Legislature after interrupting House Speaker Scott Saiki’s opening remarks.

During his outburst, Souza said, “This our home. We first kanaka maoli, we first you guys talking about money.”

Deputy Sheriffs had to pull him away after he fell while hanging onto a banister. He was taken away in an ambulance after complaining that he couldn’t breathe.

A Department of Public Safety spokesperson said Souza was later released after posting bail.

Souza previously appeared in court on charges of harassment and terroristic threatening following alleged encounters with visitors at Makua Beach.

read … Hawaiian activist who disrupted legislative opening session faces misdemeanor charge

Water Board Says EPA is Slowing Red Hill Shutdown

HNN: … The EPA is seeking public testimony on a proposed consent order requiring the Navy to defuel Red Hill and shut down the facility.

The order also contains specific actions to operate and maintain the Navy’s drinking water system at Pearl Harbor, which was contaminated by fuel spills in 2021.

But the Board of Water Supply says the proposal could drag out the defueling.

EPA Pacific Southwest Region’s Enforcement Director, Amy Miller told Hawaii News Now the federal agency is beefing up staffing in Hawaii to deal with the Red Hill crisis. She insists its proposed order doesn’t conflict with the state’s emergency order.

That order requires the Navy to take out the Red Hill fuel, which sits just above Oahu’s aquifer.

Hawaii News Now asked if the EPA thinks the military can stick to its mid-2024 deadline to defuel Red Hill.

“We want to make sure that they meet that goal that they’ve put out for themselves and we want to make sure that it’s done in a safe manner,” said Miller….

The Board of Water Supply sent a letter to thousands of its water customers opposing the EPA’s proposed consent order with six reasons, including the fact that there are no clear deadlines and no strict penalties.

The order also doesn’t address the latest spill of AFFF or fire fighting foam concentrate.

EPA says the latest AFFF spill is a separate investigation….  

read … Despite concerns, EPA insists consent order on Red Hill fuel facility’s shutdown is necessary

Over 400 citations issued from Oahu red light cameras

HNN: … The Department of Transportation said 416 vehicles were photographed since the State started using cameras to catch red-light runners in November 2022….

Three sites for red light cameras are actively issuing citations along Vineyard Boulevard at Palama and Liliha streets as well as Nuuanu Avenue. The next site to issue violations will be Pali Highway and Vineyard Boulevard at the end of January.

“Those violations get sent to a processing center and they’re reviewed by at least two people before they are sent to the police department for additional review,” said Shelly Kunishige, Department of Transportation communications manager, “and then once the police department signs off, then the citations are mailed out, so that would all occur within 10 days of the violation.”…

Information on the citation can be entered into an online portal to review the case. Click here for a full list of active and upcoming red light camera sites….

read … Over 400 citations issued from Oahu red light cameras

Suit against Boy Scouts: ‘Pattern of failures’ led to fatal shooting of 11-year-old at Hawaii campsite

HNN: … The Carvalho family claims the Boy Scouts and Aloha Council, which own and operate Camp Honokaia, created hazardous conditions and for years flouted standard operating procedures for firing ranges and shooting sports.

The suit, for example, says the camp ignored a ban on human-shaped and zombie targets and didn’t limit firearms to “22-caliber breech-loading, single-shot or a repeater type bolt-action rifles with a boxstyle magazine.”

The lawsuit goes on to say there was no safety planning for the Hilo Boy Scout Troop 19 family event on Aug. 28, when Scout family members were invited to bring rifles, shotguns and pistols for a Troop Shoot.

According to the lawsuit, one of the Scout parents brought about a dozen firearms, including an AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifle, an AR-15, an M-4 carbine, four shotguns, and four Glock pistols.

It says earlier in the day, a troop member accidentally discharged a shotgun, but shooting activities continued.

As children were shooting high-powered rifles, the lawsuit says, no safety official was overseeing the range or tables filled with guns and ammo. Carvalho was sitting in a chair behind the firing line, when another boy picked up the AK-47 and set it back down, an act that discharged a round that hit Carvalho in the back of his head…. 

read … Suit against Boy Scouts: ‘Pattern of failures’ led to fatal shooting of 11-year-old at Hawaii campsite

HB64: Confiscating Guns

CB: … People who lose their right to bear arms in Hawaii would have to provide a sworn statement that they have disposed of all firearms or allow police to search their house and look for any guns or ammunition under a bill being considered by lawmakers.

House Bill 64 acknowledges that circumstances may arise where an individual once permitted to own firearms may no longer have that right. ..

The bill also works to stop the transfer of ownership of any firearm or ammunition. HB 64 also requires police to seize firearms and ammunition in domestic abuse cases that are in plain view of the officer or discovered by consensual search. If the suspect in those cases refuses to relinquish their firearm, they could be charged with a misdemeanor….

read … Tourists, Guns, Business: Here’s What Hawaii Lawmakers Plan To Tackle In 2023

Rich Liberal Democrats support affordable housing in principle but go all NIMBY when it comes to their own neighborhoods

CB: … The creative class, superstar cities like L.A., San Francisco, Portland and Boston have the biggest homeless problem because there is such a housing shortage.

Growth there has far outstripped housing supply. High-tech workers could afford the resulting housing price increases, at least for a while. More and more, other people who had moved to these places to fill the demand for other jobs in these hot economies, could not. They were priced out of the market.

The so-called housing market did not, and still does not, adjust to this increase in demand by increasing supply, partly because there is too little money in it but mostly because municipal governments make this so hard to do.

Those superstar cities are heavily Democratic cities with liberal politicians. Some of the strongest, most aggressive not in my backyard people are liberal Democrats who support affordable housing in principle but go all NIMBY when it comes to their own neighborhoods.

Stop me if you’ve heard these reasons before: zoning laws, traffic, noise, parking, better uses for the land, beauty, density, keeping the country country, keeping the neighborhood the neighborhood and environmental regs. “We are not NIMBYs. It’s just that.”

Though we have a superstar homeless problem, Honolulu is not an economic superstar city. But during my entire time in Hawaii, we have had the same population growth/housing disparity problem and the same affordable housing pushback and guerilla warfare.

What’s more, zoning laws, construction obstacles and NIMBYs are alive and well in Hawaii. So is the fact that people objecting to affordable housing in the neighborhoods have more resources and time at their disposal than people who might live in these places if they were built….

Meanwhile: Hooser: Muddy waters of Coco Palms

read … We Should Rethink Our Housing Priorities While Waiting For The World To Change

HSTA News: Former Waimea Teacher Victor Aguilar sentenced for sexual assault

TGI: … Former Waimea High School JROTC instructor Victor Aguilar pleaded no contest to one charge of sexual assault in the second degree on Wednesday for taking advantage of his underage student.

In a deal reached with Kaua‘i prosecutors, four additional sexual assault charges were dropped, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

He will serve those years concurrently with a 14-year federal sentence levied against him by a federal judge in November 2022, in a related case where he pleaded guilty to two counts of exploitation of a minor through possession of child pornography….

read … Former Waimea instructor Victor Aguilar sentenced for sexual assault

Ex-airline worker indicted in COVID fraud

SA: … A former United Airlines employee was indicted by the federal government for allegedly taking nearly $150,000 in Economic Injury Disaster Loans provided by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic by making up a fake limousine business.

Nenad Kuhar was arrested at 2:30 a.m. Jan. 9 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, N.Y., after he was charged in a Dec. 8 indictment with two counts of wire fraud. He entered pleas of not guilty to both counts Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield.

His trial is scheduled for March 14 at 9 a.m. before Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway.

Kuhar’s attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Craig W. Jerome, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg P. Yates, who is prosecuting the case for the government, did not immediately reply to Honolulu Star-Advertiser requests for comment.

According to the indictment, between July 8, 2020, and July 14, 2020, Kuhar, an Oahu resident who earned $70,913 in 2019, allegedly claimed he owned a sole proprietorship that earned “$650,000 in the 12 months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and that his cost of goods sold was $280,000 in this same period,” according to the indictment….

read … Ex-airline worker indicted in business fraud

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