Convicted of conspiring to obstruct justice by framing an innocent man with a crime he did not commit, two former Honolulu police officers were recently sentenced to federal prison. The former police chief and his wife were sentenced earlier this week for their roles in the conspiracy.
On June 21, 2013, members of the Honolulu Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) participated in a conspiracy with Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, to frame Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana, with stealing the Kealohas’ mailbox to obtain bank statements. The Kealohas’ motive for framing Gerard was to discredit and intimidate him after he accused Katherine of committing fraud against him and his elderly mother—Katherine’s grandmother—Florence Puana.
In 2007, Katherine Kealoha tricked her uncle into investing $70,000 into an account that she periodically withdrew from without his knowledge. In 2009, Katherine convinced Florence to place a reverse mortgage on Florence’s family home. Katherine promised Florence that she would pay off the reverse mortgage after using some of the proceeds to consolidate the Kealohas’ debt. Instead, unbeknownst to Florence, Katherine funneled the reverse mortgage proceeds into a bank account that Katherine controlled.
The Kealohas stole more than $148,000 from Florence and spent the money on various personal expenses, including Elton John concert tickets, Mercedes and Maserati car payments, a trip to Disneyland, and a $23,976 brunch tab at the Sheraton Waikiki to celebrate Louis Kealoha’s induction as Honolulu Police Chief in 2009. In the meantime, Katherine made no payments on the reverse mortgage, allowed the balance to balloon out of control, and diverted mortgage statements away from Florence’s mailbox to keep Florence from discovering the money was missing.
After Florence and Gerard filed a civil lawsuit against Katherine, she attempted to have Florence declared legally incompetent, while her husband and his co-conspirators had Gerard arrested for a crime he did not commit.
Under the orders of Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, CIU Lt. Derek Hahn directed a CIU officer to selectively edit the surveillance video of the alleged mailbox “theft,” write false reports about the surveillance video, and destroy the original evidence so that the conspirators’ criminal acts could not be uncovered. CIU Officer Minh-Hung Nguyen, who was married to Katherine’s niece at the time, participated in an illegal search of Gerard’s residence, falsely identified Gerard as the “thief” in the surveillance video of the frame job, generated false police reports about Gerard, and conducted surveillance of Gerard leading to Gerard’s false arrest.
In June 2019, Hahn, Nguyen, and the Kealohas were convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit offenses against the U.S. and three counts of obstruction for attempting to frame Gerard and covering up their actions. On Monday, Katherine Kealoha and former police chief Louis Kealoha were sentenced during separate hearings in federal court to 13 years and seven years in federal prison, respectively.
The next day, Chief U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright sentenced Hahn and Nguyen to 42 and 54 months in federal prison, respectively. Each will also be subject to two years of supervised release following their sentence.
“These officers shattered the victims’ lives and dishonored the Honolulu Police Department,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer in a recent press release. “This community deserved so much better from these officers.”
Hahn and Nguyen were ordered to report to prison on April 12, 2021.