A handwriting expert testified Thursday that someone forged two signatures of Katherine Kealoha’s uncle on a revocable living trust document in his name — and that Kealoha could have signed the name of a nonexistent notary public named “Alison Lee Wong” on the document.
David Oleksow, a San Diego- based forensic document examiner, testified on the 11th day of Kealoha’s federal corruption trial that he was “virtually certain that (Kealoha’s uncle) Gerard Puana was not responsible for writing the two signatures on this … document.”
He could not determine who wrote Puana’s signature, but said “there may be some attempt at some level to copy the signatures of Mr. Puana at a very poor level.”
Oleksow personally took handwriting samples from both Kealoha and Puana on Dec. 1, 2016. He said Kealoha’s handwriting was similar to the notary signature of “Alison Lee Wong,” whom a deputy state attorney general testified this week does not exist in Hawaii.
The signature of Alison Lee Wong — along with the “04-11-09” date of the signature — are “consistent with the skill level of Ms. Kealoha,” Oleksow testified.
He compared the “4” in the date of the signature to the “46” that Keahola wrote as her age in 2016, Oleksow said.
The document misspells Puana’s name as “Gerald,” instead of Gerard, as trustor of the trust in his name.
But it correctly spells Katherine Kealoha’s name as trustee.
In general, a “trustor” grants the powers of a trust to the trustee.
Puana testified that he did not sign the trust document that bears his name.
Kealoha, a former deputy prosecutor, and her husband — former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha — are on trial in U.S. District Court along with three current and retired members of the Honolulu Police Department’s elite Criminal Intelligence Unit: retired Maj. Gordon Shiraishi, Lt. Derek Wayne Hahn and officer Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, who once lived in the Kealohas’ Kahala home and married Katherine Kealoha’s niece.
Neither Katherine Kealoha’s attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, nor any of the other defendants’ attorneys, cross-examined Oleksow.
The Honolulu Ethics Commission received “a number” of calls from people asking about the use of HPD surveillance equipment at the Kahala home of the police chief in June 2014, according to the commission’s retired executive director and legal counsel, Charles Totto, who also testified Thursday.
A year earlier, on June 22, 2013, Katherine Kealoha reported their mailbox had been stolen.
The Ethics Commission “also received information that HPD employees were being used to conduct surveillance in and around the home,” Totto said.
Totto and his investigator, retired HPD Capt. Letha DeCaires, began ramping up their investigation in September and October 2014, Totto said.
They were looking at “issues of city resources. That’s what we focused on at the time,” he said.
Their questioning of some of the CIU members, who were offering sworn testimony, at least at one point veered into some of the ongoing family disputes between Katherine Kealoha, Puana and Florence Puana, who is Kealoha’s grandmother.
During Kealoha’s 2013 deposition in preparation for a civil trial between her and her grandmother, the Puanas were asked to leave the deposition because Florence Puana had said Kealoha was lying.
As they left the room, Gerard Puana testified that Kealoha was texting someone.
Once he and his mother got to the downstairs lobby, they saw Nguyen, who was sitting on a couch also texting, Gerard Puana said.
In an interview with Nguyen on May 15, 2015, DeCaires asked Nguyen why he was in the same building where Kealoha was giving her deposition.
The jurors Thursday heard Nguyen’s recorded reply:
“I was just in the area,” Nguyen said. “We were just hanging out, my partner and I.”
DeCaires asked Nguyen for the name of his partner. Nguyen replied that he could not remember the name.
He referred to his partner as “a short Japanese guy. Sorry, for real, I can’t remember. Short Japanese guy. He was with us for a little while. Honestly, I can’t remember his name.”
DeCaires pressed Nguyen for a description of his partner — approximate age, height, build — “chubby, skinny, what?” she said.
DeCaires reminded Nguyen that as police officers they are trained to be able to describe people.
Finally, Nguyen said he was in the building because his partner’s mother “bought us lunch. … Honestly, I’m having a brain fart. I don’t know his name.”
Totto testified that the Kealohas filed seven ethics complaints of their own against Totto, beginning on July 24, 2015, and five against DeCaires.
The first complaint alleged “DeCaires and I had maliciously investigated the Kealohas, both of them, in order to accomplish a vendetta against Louis Kealoha,” Totto said.
All of the complaints were signed by Katherine Kealoha.
None of them were sustained by the Ethics Commission, Totto said.
As for their original investigation, Totto said it was “basically put on hold” by the Ethics Commission, which prohibited Totto in November 2015 from continuing it.
Then in June 2016, “the Kealohas sued the Ethics Commission, myself and Letha (DeCaires) for improper investigation,” he said.
The civil suit was dismissed in December 2018, Totto said.
Totto is scheduled to return to the witness stand this morning.
Federal prosecutors Thursday told U.S. District Chief Judge J. Michael Seabright that they are unlikely to finish presenting their case before the end of today, when the trial is scheduled to take a weeklong recess.