Hawaii Law Enforcement “Power Couple” Faces Criminal Charges
Retired Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, a deputy prosecutor, have been arrested on multiple federal charges, including conspiracy, making false statements to federal officers, obstruction and bank fraud.
Katherine Kealoha is also charged with aggravated identity theft. The couple both pleaded not guilty to all charges in federal court earlier this month. Each was released on $100,000 bond. Their trial is scheduled for Dec. 19.
Federal prosecutors had sought to hold Katherine Kealoha without bail, citing “multiple acts of obstruction,” including using 10 different phone lines to contact witnesses in the federal investigation and demonstrating a willingness to destroy and falsify evidence. However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi ruled against the prosecutors, stating they did not provide adequate proof to keep her in custody.
At a news conference following the couple’s arraignment, federal prosecutors painted the picture of a couple willing to use their powerful law enforcement positions to settle personal scores and seek personal gain. “The 20-count indictment describes a complex web of fraud, deception and obstruction by a husband and wife team so desperate to fund their lifestyle and maintain their self-professed status as Honolulu’s power couple that they swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars from banks, credit unions and some of the most vulnerable members of the community, including a disabled uncle, a 98-year-old grandmother and two minor children who were under Katherine Kealoha’s guardianship,” said acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson.
Louis Kealoha was forced to retire as Police Chief last year after news of the federal investigation became public. His wife has been put on leave without pay from her position in the Career Criminal Unit of the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office pending the outcome of the case.
As In Justice Today has previously reported, the investigation stems from multiple situations involving Katherine Kealoha. The first involved a feud between Kealoha and her 98-year-old grandmother, Florence Puana. According to Hawaii News Now, “In 2011, Puana accused her granddaughter of emptying their joint bank account of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The money was from a reverse mortgage Kealoha arranged for Puana’s Wilhelmina Rise home, the home she raised her nine children in.”
Puana sued Kealoha. She claims her granddaughter tried, unsuccessfully, to have her declared incompetent before the trial. Puana lost the lawsuit, but their ongoing disagreements led to allegations by Puana that Kealohaattempted to criminally frame her son (Kealoha’s uncle), Gerard Puana, by faking the theft of her mailbox. Gerard Puana had taken his mother’s side in the dispute over her home.
According to the federal charges, Katherine Kealoha enlisted her husband, and he subsequently engaged police officers under his command in the conspiracy to frame Gerard Puana. Five police officers have now been arrested and accused of participating in this crime. One, Niall Silva, has pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy and acknowledged making false statements, falsifying records and obstructing official proceedings in an attempt to discredit Puana.
Prosecutors also have accused Kealoha of bank fraud. They claim she stole money that had been earmarked for two children under her care. According to the criminal charges, Kealoha used hundreds of thousands of dollars from a trust account set up for the children to cover her personal expenses and to provide collateral for a personal loan.
Criminal charges against Katherine Kealoha also go back to allegations she engaged in ticket fixing. Allegedly, her electrician received a ticket in 2014. Kealoha told him she would take care of it. She appeared at a court hearing and asked the judge to dismiss the charge, maintaining that a career criminal who’d stolen the electrician’s identity had been driving at the time.
The FBI began investigating her testimony the next year. Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, Katherine Kealoha’s boss, now also appears to be under investigation for falsely backing up Kealoha’s claims, and then questioning the integrity of the ticketing officer.
“This is just the beginning,” said Robinson, the acting U.S. Attorney, at the press conference after the Kealohas were arraigned.