An FBI affidavit unsealed in U.S. District Court today details how officers close to the former chief of the Honolulu Police Department allegedly conspired to frame the uncle of his wife.
FBI Special Agent Nicole Vallieres said in an affidavit that there was probable cause to believe several police officers did conspire with each other to “destroy, alter, or falsify records.” The co-conspirators were also accused of agreeing to obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding and to make a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement, she said.
Vallieres’ affidavit recounts the moments surrounding the alleged June 2013 theft of the mailbox of former Chief Louis Kealoha and his deputy prosecutor wife Katherine Kealoha. A video recording captured the alleged theft and both Kealohas and officer Minh-hung Nguyen, who was married to Katherine Kealoha’s niece at the time, identified the man in the video as Gerard Puana, Katherine Kealoha’s uncle.
Prosecutors said in court documents that the report was false and that the subsequent police investigation was a conspiracy to frame Puana, who was in a financial dispute with Katherine Kealoha.
Vallieres said the man in the video does not appear to be Puana and he passed a lie detector test in which he denied being the thief.
The case was investigated by the police department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, which is comprised of officers “handpicked by the chief,” the affidavit said. Four of those former CIU officers have now been charged, including officer Nguyen and Lt. Derek Hahn, who was arrested today.
Vallieres said it appears the mailbox may have been prepped to be “stolen” by a co-conspirator because the thief separated the metal box from the pole in just a few seconds. In addition, the designer of the mailbox said the base is designed to break once the pole tilts to 15 degrees, but the mailbox appeared to tilt to 20 degrees without breaking the base in the video.
She also said only one hour of surveillance video was preserved from the surveillance system while the rest appears to have been intentionally recorded over by officers inside the CIU, including a recording of the CIU office ceiling for six straight days.
Vallieres says officer Nguyen told a postal inspector that he was present with another CIU officer, Niall Silva, at the Kealohas’ home at about 9 a.m. June 22, 2013, when Silva recovered the hard drive containing video of the mailbox theft. Bank records, however, show that Silva was conducting transactions at different banks in Honolulu at the time.
Kealoha had testified that his wife reported the theft to police. Police records indicate she called police at 1:31 p.m. June 22, 2013, to report the theft from the previous night, the affidavit says. A beat officer responded and the Kealohas made a report.
Two days later, Katherine Kealoha approached a police lieutenant in the Criminal Investigations Division with a large box of financial documents and asked him to “review the documents to determine if he could make out a criminal case” against her uncle for fraud and elder abuse, the affidavit said.
She appeared “frazzled” and “very nervous, very afraid,” the lieutenant told investigators. He reviewed the material but did not open a case.
During the same period, Kealoha claimed someone had damaged her vehicle. A few days later, on June 27, Louis Kealoha inspected his garage and “discovered the driver’s side door to his [Chevy Nova] ajar and a screwdriver that he does not remember owning on the floor board behind the driver’s seat,” the affidavit said.
Both Kealohas identified Puana as the suspect in that incident, the affidavit said. The author of the police report was Nguyen, who later said Hahn had directed him to write the burglary report.
Read the FBI affidavit here: