Monday, November 30, 2015         

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Couple accused of drawing inmates into scam

A duo is arrested in Arizona on charges that they cheated convicts and their families out of millions

By Nelson Daranciang


A husband and wife are in custody in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme that victimized Hawaii inmates serving federal prison sentences on the mainland and their families.

FBI agents arrested Rachelle and Perry Jay Griggs yesterday in Arizona.

A federal grand jury in Honolulu returned an indictment in October charging the Griggses with wire fraud and mail fraud. They are scheduled to appear Monday before a federal judge in Arizona on the government's request to have them sent to Hawaii to answer to the charges.

The Griggses and Kapua Keolanui, the wife of a Hawaii inmate, collected $3 million from the Hawaii inmates and their families from 2005 to 2009, when Perry Griggs was incarcerated at Nellis PrisonCamp in Nevada, according to the indictment. He was serving an eight-year prison sentence for running another Ponzi scheme in California.

Griggs claimed he was a wealthy, expert commodity futures trader serving time for tax offenses.

Keolanui, 35, pleaded guilty last month to wire fraud and is cooperating with authorities.

The Griggses and Keolanui persuaded inmates and their families to cash out their savings, retirement accounts and mortgages to invest in companies that offered guaranteed returns from commodities trading, according to federal court records. Instead of investing the money, the operators used money from new investors to pay off older ones and spent some of the money on themselves.

The Griggses spent about $1 million on luxury car leases, rent for a house in Hawaii, a private jet charter and jewelry, court records said. Keolanui used some of the money she collected on start-up ventures for her family, including coin-operated video gambling machines, a dump truck business and a tractor-trailer business.

The government said the defendants tried to continue running the Ponzi scheme after Perry Griggs was released from Nellis in September 2008. But the scheme started to collapse and authorities lost track of the Griggses in January.

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