Former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, former Honolulu prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, were sentenced in federal court this week to 84 months and 156 months in prison, respectively, for a range of criminal conduct, including framing their relative with a crime to conceal their own fraud. Additionally, the Kealohas’ co-conspirators, former Honolulu police officers Derek Wayne Hahn and Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, received 42 months and 54 months, respectively, for their involvement in the conspiracy.
Chief U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright of the District of Hawaii handed down the sentences, remarking that the conspiracy was “staggering in its breadth, its scope, and its audacity.” He stated further that “the impact on the community is clear: The conduct of the defendants has shaken the community and its trust in the Honolulu Police Department.”
The sentences mark the end of one of the largest public corruption cases in Hawaii history. In June 2019, after six weeks of trial and one day of deliberation, a federal jury in Honolulu convicted the Kealohas, Hahn, and Nguyen of conspiracy and attempted obstruction of justice pertaining to the false arrest and prosecution of Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana. The evidence at trial established that the conspirators used their considerable power, including commandeering the Honolulu Police Department’s elite Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU), to frame Gerard with stealing the Kealohas’ mailbox. Hahn and Nguyen were both members of CIU, which acted directly at the behest of Louis Kealoha. The Kealohas’ motive for framing Gerard was to discredit and intimidate him after he accused Katherine of stealing money from him and his elderly mother—Katherine’s grandmother. The evidence at trial demonstrated that the Kealohas took and spent over $148,000 of the grandmother’s money in just a six-month period, with payments going towards expenses such as mortgage payments, Elton John concert tickets, Mercedes and Maserati car payments, a trip to Disneyland, and a $23,976 brunch tab at the Sheraton Waikiki to celebrate Louis Kealoha’s induction as Honolulu Police Chief in 2009.
Once Gerard started voicing claims of fraud, the Kealohas moved to silence him by falsely accusing him of a felony offense. To frame Gerard, the conspirators prepped the Kealohas’ mailbox to be “stolen,” selectively edited grainy surveillance video to conceal their preparatory acts, falsely identified Gerard as the culprit captured by the video, falsified police reports, withheld and destroyed evidence, and repeatedly lied about their activity to investigators, the federal grand jury, and the District Court for the District of Hawaii. This all occurred while Louis Kealoha was Honolulu’s Police Chief and while Katherine Kealoha was a high-ranking Honolulu prosecutor.
“This was a flagrant and stunning abuse of power that victimized an entire community by undermining public confidence in its leaders and the rule of law,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “After years of manipulating the levers of justice to shroud their own crimes, justice has been delivered to these defendants.” Brewer praised FBI agents and Special Attorneys Michael Wheat, Joseph Orabona, Janaki Chopra, and Colin McDonald for achieving justice in this case after many years of tenacious investigation and skillful litigation.