comscore Uncle denies mailbox theft in Kealoha corruption trial | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

Uncle denies mailbox theft in Kealoha corruption trial


    Surveillance video from Louis and Katherine Kealohas' Kahala home. This video is presented as evidence in the Kealohas' mailbox trial.

  • GEORGE F. LEE / 2015

    In this file photo, Florence Puana, left, and Gerard Puana listened to the verdict in a civil suit against Katherine Kealoha. U.S. prosecutors say framing Gerard was key to a conspiracy by the Kealohas.

The first question a special federal prosecutor asked a witness today in an ongoing Hawaii corruption trial: Did you take the mailbox at the home of a now-retired police chief and his wife?

“Absolutely not,” answered Gerard Puana.

U.S. prosecutors say framing Puana was key to a conspiracy by ex-Honolulu chief Louis Kealoha and his wife Katherine Kealoha, a former deputy city prosecutor. They’re on trial, along with current and former officers, accused of framing Puana to keep him from revealing a financial scheme that supported the couple’s lavish lifestyle.

The Kealohas have pleaded not guilty to charges including obstruction and conspiracy. They also face a bank fraud and identity theft trial, including allegations Katherine Kealoha bilked banks, relatives and children whose trusts she controlled. Kealoha and her pain doctor brother face a third trial for allegations they dealt opioids.

Puana said he trusted his niece, Katherine Kealoha, who is the daughter of his brother. He gave her money to invest and they were close: “It was like we were the best of friends,” he said, recalling his pet name for her was “Katster,” and that she called him “Uncle Gersters.”

He said he helped her father renovate the Kealohas’ home in Kahala, an upscale Honolulu neighborhood.

The condo Puana owned previously when his son was born was for sale, so he told his niece he wanted to buy it for sentimental reasons. He testified he couldn’t afford to do it on his own, so Kealoha proposed getting a reverse mortgage on his mother’s home to buy him the condo and consolidate the Kealohas’ debt, which federal prosecutors have described as massive.

Puana’s mother — Kealoha’s grandmother — initially didn’t go for the plan and was concerned it wouldn’t be fair to her eight other children, he recalled. But she agreed when Kealoha promised to pay off the mortgage and that it would be a secret between the three of them.

“We really respected her,” Puana said of his niece. “We trusted her wholeheartedly.”

Kealoha used the reverse mortgage funds to buy Puana his condo but never paid off her grandmother’s reverse mortgage, prosecutors said, and instead used the remaining money on personal expenses such as a banquet for her husband’s police chief induction ceremony, Maserati car payments and Elton John concert tickets.

Puana paid monthly mortgage and maintenance payments for the condo to Kealoha, he said.

Jurors on Tuesday watched a deposition of Kealoha’s grandmother, Florence Puana, 99, describing the reverse mortgage scheme that forced her to sell the family home her husband built. She wasn’t able to testify in person because of her failing health.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature
Comments (10)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Scroll Up