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Ex-inmate pleads guilty in scam to take $2M from isle prisoners

By Nelson Daranciang

LAST UPDATED: 1:36 a.m. HST, Apr 6, 2011

A man who spent eight years in federal prison for ripping off 47 victims of $3 million in a Ponzi scheme on the mainland pleaded guilty in federal court in Honolulu yesterday to charges that he also swindled Hawaii prison inmates and their families out of nearly $2 million in another scheme.

Perry Jay Griggs pleaded guilty to one count each of wire fraud and mail fraud. He could get up to 20 years in prison on each count when a federal judge sentences him in July.

His wife, Rachelle Griggs, is scheduled to plead guilty next week.

The government says the Griggses and Kapua Keolanui, wife of a Hawaii inmate in federal prison in Las Vegas, persuaded other inmates and their families to refinance their mortgages and empty their retirement and savings accounts to invest in their bogus commodities trading company for guaranteed returns.

At the time, Perry Griggs was serving a prison term in Nevada for a Ponzi scheme he ran in California.

When a grand jury in Hawaii returned an indictment last October charging the Griggses with mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, Perry Griggs had completed his prison term, and he and his wife were on the run.

The FBI arrested them in December in Arizona.

Keolanui pleaded guilty to wire fraud in November and agreed to cooperate with


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