The four-bedroom, six- bathroom house at 91 Coelho Way where an unarmed burglary suspect fought three Honolulu Police Department officers before being shot to death has been the focus of repeated complaints to police and unsuccessful government investigations that it was operating as an illegal vacation rental.
The property has changed hands repeatedly between non-Hawaii interests and was once occupied by a company whose owner was served with an eviction notice.
Lindani Myeni, 29, died of multiple gunshot wounds at 91 Coelho Way after the residents said he illegally entered the home Wednesday night, prompting them to call police and leading to the fatal shooting outside.
Attorney Jim Bickerton, who represents Myeni’s family, told a South African news station that the home was an illegal vacation rental and Bickerton did not know why Myeni was there.
Complaints about the home’s alleged use as an illegal vacation rental shed little light on the events leading up to Myeni’s death, although social media has been rampant with theories.
But the killing reveals yet another Oahu property that has been the source of repeated complaints and pleas to shut it down — a phenomenon that has prompted Gov. David Ige to more recently call for a crackdown on illegal vacation rentals as a resurgence of post-COVID-19 tourists causes friction in island neighborhoods.
Over the last year, Honolulu police officers responded to reports of a vehicle break-in, a motor vehicle collision, a possible COVID violation, and a miscellaneous incident at 91 Coelho Way, according to Michelle Yu, HPD’s public information oficer.
In 2019 and 2020 the city Department of Planning and Permitting investigated seven complaints that 91 Coelho Way was being used as an illegal short-term rental. Rentals of fewer than 30 days are not allowed at the property, said DPP spokesman Curtis Lum.
“These complaints included allegations of illegal advertising on various internet platforms, such as Airbnb,” Lum told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “Our investigation determined that the ads were for 30 days or more, which is not a violation. On-site inspections of the property did not reveal an illegal short-term rental on this property. Even if a short-term rental is being advertised for 30 days or more, consistent with the law, it is possible that renters are staying at the property for less than 30 days.”
Lum urged the public to help investigators by providing witness information that renters are staying for terms shorter than 30 days.
The ownership of the white, 7,430-square-foot home that sits on 20,457 square feet of land began in July 1983 when Honbushin Honbu bought the property for $385,000, according to the state Bureau of Conveyances. Honbushin refers to a splinter sect of the Shinto religion founded by Onishi Tama in 1961, and “honbu” means school or practice hall.
The property changed hands in 1989 and sold for $850,000; again in January 1993 for $2,657,174 under the control of a corporation that later registered as a foreign investment property; and again in April 2007 when a Nevada corporation took control of the deed for $1,000. A month later a limited-liability corporation paid another $1,000 to take control of the deed.
In 2018 a company initiated an eviction proceeding against Jeffrey A. Dunster, founder and CEO of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, citing no “written or oral rental agreement.”
Dunster’s name appears in the database of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the group made famous by publishing the “Panama Papers” probe looking into offshore financing and corporations.
At Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, in Honolulu, Betsy Maler identified herself as an executive services administrator for Dunster’s business entities. She said Dunster moved out of the Coelho Way property three years ago.
“It is one of the most unfortunate things to happen there,” Maler said. “We have nothing to do with that property at all.”
Another of Dunster’s companies — Hawaiian Legacy Tours — identifies itself as a nonprofit, community service organization. It also lists its headquarters at 91 Coelho Way on Yelp.
Dunster did not reply to emailed questions about his businesses or ownership of 91 Coelho Way.
A private owner took control of the deed in 2018 and could not be reached for comment.
This story has been updated with information from HPD about officers responding to calls about the Coelho Way house in the past year.
Star-Advertiser staff writers Andrew Gomes and Rosemarie Bernardo contributed to this story.