Category Archives: Crime

Another example of the cross-over between Hawaiian sovereignty and right-wing antigovernment groups

The FBI is looking for a local woman who disappeared just two weeks before her scheduled trial on multiple charges of conspiracy, fraud, money laundering, and is now considered a fugitive.

Jennifer Mctigue apparently dropped out of sight after both of her codefendants, including her close friend, Sakara Blackwell, entered guilty pleas and agreed to testify against her.

McTigue’s Facebook page features several photos of her traveling gone the mainland with Blackwell. The photos date back about three years.

Their scam, which netted them millions, involved gaining control of distressed properties and then creating a bogus paper trail claiming to show that all prior debts had been paid off.

According to the governments trial brief:

McTigue, Melton, and Blackwell first obtained title to a distressed property, or identified a distressed property with cooperative owners. McTigue and/or Melton delivered fraudulent documents by U.S. mail to the financial institutions holding mortgage liens against the properties. The mailed materials purported to authorize McTigue and/or Melton to release the mortgage, via documents identified by Melton and/or McTigue at various times as a “Note Tender Agreement” (NTA), EFT Tender Agreement, or “Mortgage Satisfaction Agreement” (MSA). The EFT Tender Agreement, NTA and/or MSA falsely represented that a valid “negotiable instrument” or promissory note had been sent to the lender in the approximate amount of the outstanding mortgage liens. The documents contained language stating that, in the event the bank holding the mortgage failed to acknowledge and respond to the conditions in the “agreement” within a specified period of time (usually three days), Melton and/or McTigue, or others, would become authorized to act as representatives of the financial institutions holding the mortgage, and the bank would acquiesce to them performing acts on behalf of the lender, including the right to “execute and record a satisfaction of Lien for mortgages.”

After filing the false documents with the Bureau of Conveyances, the three then proceeded to sell the properties to unsuspecting buyers as “free and clear” of all debt, and pocketed the money that should have gone to pay off the outstanding mortgage loans.

In court filings, Mctigue, who is representing herself, argued that the U.S. government has no jurisdiction over her because of the “illegal” overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom. Her long, rambling motion to dismiss the case on this basis was rejected by the court in no uncertain terms.

Memo to file: If you’re really in trouble, don’t try to rely on the sovereignty defense. It doesn’t work. Trust me.

It isn’t clear just what kind of ties McTigue has to the Sovereign Citizen Movement beyond using paperwork generated by the right-wing, anti-government group.

KITV reported:

But federal authorities warn McTigue has ties to an anti-government group known as the Sovereign Citizen Movement.

It is the same group they believe helped another Honolulu couple flee the state just before they were to be sentenced in a mortgage fraud case.

John and Julie Dimitrion have been on the lam for the last five years.

Simon said that’s why they are wary of McTigue’s disappearance.

“Members of that movement charted a plane to the mainland for them to escape justice. We hope we have been able to get on this Jennifer McTigue thing before anyone does that with her. But that said, you don’t have to be James Bond to leave Hawaii so it’s entirely possible she has left,” Simon said.

And several people convicted in a Maui debt elimination scheme grounded in Hawaiian sovereignty claims used similar kinds of paperwork in their scam (see “On scams and the sovereignty narrative“).

This also put the group on the radar of the Anti-Defamation League, which mentioned the Hawaii case in an overview of the Sovereign Citizen Movement (“The Lawless Ones: The Resurgence of the Sovereign Citizen Movement“).

In late 2008, the FBI began investigating a mortgage elimination ring that charged victims between $2,500 and $10,000 to attend seminar and meetings where people were given special $1 million “Royal Hawaiian Treasury Bonds” that they could allegedly use to pay off their mortgages (a sovereign citizen tactic dating back to the 1980s), though they would have to make payments to the mortgage elimination ring for a while. Of course, the bonds turned out to be worthless.

So the McTigue case is just another indication of the dangerous cross-over between groups like the Sovereign Citizen Movement and various parts of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement.

One sad note. On May 22, 2015, McTigue’s father agreed to stand behind the $50,000 unsecured appearance bond originally co-signed by her former husband, court records show. I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of how this bond process works, but it looks like McTigue’s disappearance could result in her father having to forfeit the $50,000 bond amount.

New book from one of Hawaii’s top investigative reporter

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you will definitely want to read the forthcoming book by longtime investigative reporter, Jim Dooley.

Sunny Skies, Shady Characters: Cops, Killers, and Corruption in the Aloha State,” is scheduled to be published in August by the University of Hawaii Press.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

For thirty years starting in the mid-1970s, the byline of Jim Dooley appeared on riveting investigative stories of organized crime and political corruption that headlined the front page of Honolulu’s morning daily. In Sunny Skies, Shady Characters, James Dooley revisits highlights of his career as a hard-hitting investigative reporter for the Honolulu Advertiser and, in later years, for KITV television and the online Hawaii Reporter. His lively backstories on how he chased these high-profile scandals make fascinating reading, while providing an insider’s look at the business of journalism and the craft of investigative reporting.

Dooley’s first assignment as an investigative journalist involved the city housing project of Kukui Plaza, which introduced him to the “pay to play” method of awarding government contracts to obliging consultants. In later stories, he scrutinized bloody struggles over illicit gambling revenue, the murder of a city prosecutor’s son, local syndicate ties to the Teamsters Union, and the dealings of Bishop Estate. His groundbreaking coverage of the forays by yakuza into Hawaii and the continental United States were the first of its kind in American journalism.

As Dooley pursued stories from the underside of island society, names of respected public figures and those of violent criminals filled his notebook: entertainer Don Ho, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, Governors George Ariyoshi and Ben Cayetano, Mayor Frank Fasi, and notorious felons Henry Huihui, Nappy Pulawa, and Ronnie Ching. Woven throughout is the name of Big Island rancher Larry Mehau—was he the “godfather of organized crime” in Hawaii as alleged by the FBI, or simply an ex-cop who befriended power brokers in the course of doing business for his security guard firm? The book includes a timeline of Mehau’s activities to allow readers to judge for themselves.

The book will be available from UH Press on publication, and can preorder from Amazon

A stark listing of Hawaii organized crime killings in the 1960s and 1970s

Sifting through more of my old files yesterday turned up a list of the more than 50 organized crime-related murders in Hawaii in the later 1960s through much of the 1970s, along with a smaller number of attempted murders and disappearances.

This was a period during which Hawaii was experiencing explosive growth, which in turn offered rich rewards for those who controlled the traditional forms of vice–prostitution, gambling, and drugs. Competing gangs, often neighborhood based and headed by a charismatic leader, fought for their share of the action and battled against incursions by mainland crime families.

It’s pretty grim reading. It includes name of the victim(s), date and place of death, and disposition of the body. Many were dumped along public roads, some left where they fell, others buried on remote beaches.

Is it relatively complete? I just don’t know.

Click here to see the full list.

I must have inherited this list while I was writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and I don’t remember the source. It wasn’t uncommon for reporters to turn over old files to others when they moved to other jobs or even just shifted their reporting to other beats. I’m pretty sure that’s how this ended up in one of my old files, stuffed in a folder of clippings and notes relating to alleged organized crime activities.

Maybe one of my former colleagues will recognize the list and recall it’s origins.

HPD wrong on mandatory retirement for police officers

Like many others, I was surprised by last week’s news that one of the police officers indicted on federal charges stemming from a violent incident at a local game room last September was a 77-year old reserve police officer.

Senator Will Espero reacted to the officer’s age, as Civil Beat reported (“How Old Is Too Old for a Cop?“).

According to Civil Beat:

Assistant Police Chief Dave Kajihiro responded to Espero’s email Thursday, saying that the Americans With Disability Act prevented the department from implementing a mandatory retirement age for officers.

So are we stuck with aging law enforcement officers at all levels due to the federal law?

The quick answer is a simple “no”.

HPD’s claim that it’s stymied by the legal requirements of the Americans With Disability Act apparently isn’t true.

Here’s an excerpt from a publication of the International Association of Firefighters.

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) permanently exempts fire fighters, emergency medical personnel, and police officers from the federal ban on age limits and employment.

The new law authorizes state and local governments to establish mandatory retirement ages of at least 55, as well as maximum hiring ages. It is also retroactive to January 1, 1994, to cover municipalities whose age limits became illegal when the ADEA took affect for public safety personnel.

And here’s the relevant section from the law itself.

It shall not be unlawful for an employer which is a State, a political subdivision of a State, an agency or instrumentality of a State or a political subdivision of a State, or an interstate agency to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual because of such individual’s age if such action is taken-

(1) with respect to the employment of an individual as a firefighter or as a law enforcement officer, the employer has complied with section 3(d)(2) of the Age Discrimination in Employment Amendments of 1996 if the individual was discharged after the date described in such section, and the individual has attained-

(A) the age of hiring or retirement, respectively, in effect under applicable State or local law on March 3, 1983; or

(B) (i) if the individual was not hired, the age of hiring in effect on the date of such failure or refusal to hire under applicable State or local law enacted after September 30, 1996; or

(ii) if applicable State or local law was enacted after September 30, 1996, and the individual was discharged, the higher of-

(I) the age of retirement in effect on the date of such discharge under such law; and

(II) age 55; and

(2) pursuant to a bona fide hiring or retirement plan that is not a subterfuge to evade the purposes of this chapter.

So why did HPD misunderstand the law? That’s one important unanswered question.

And what is the deal with the reserve officer program?

It doesn’t get in the news much.

My dad was a reserve HPD officer back in the 1950s. At one time, he was president of the “Keys & Whistles” organization, which I think was made up of reserve officers and supporters.

I found a Star-Bulletin story dated April 11, 2000 about the program (“Lawyer by day, Cop by night“).

Charlie Dang is one of the few Honolulu police officers who is not concerned with pay. That’s because he gets no pay.

Dang is one of 68 Honolulu Police Department reserve officers who volunteer at least one night a week to serve the community.

Faced with a shortage and retirements, HPD is looking for at least 32 more reserves. For the first time since 1992, HPD is hoping to bolster its reserve force, with the newest group of recruits to be assigned to the Kaneohe/Kailua areas.

A 2002 opinion by the Honolulu Ethics Commission provided this summary:

A reserve police officer serves for no pay, but receives reimbursement for a automobile fuel expended in the service of HPD and is covered under the city’s workers compensation and disabilities programs. The job description for a reserve officer is similar to that of a regular officer. Like a regular officer, a reserve officer must follow HPD’s Standards of Conduct, is issued and carries a firearm, carries a badge, wears the standard HPD uniform, possesses and uses all the authority of a police officer and receives supervision from HPD. A reserve officer is limited in the number of hours available to work and there is no promotion available. There are about 75 reserve officers at HPD.

Here’s a paragraph from the city’s 2006-2007 annual report.

The Reserve Officer program enlists the services of qualified citizens to perform emergency police duties. Reserve officers provide additional police protection to the public with emphasis on supplementing the patrol divisions. The Reserve Officer program has 100 authorized positions, 78 of which are currently filled. The reserve officers work without compensation or financial obligation from the City and County of Honolulu. The reserve officers are assigned to a specific division where they work five hours a week. In addition to their regular assignments, they assist the CAS with various special events such as Police Week, Drug Abuse Resistance Education Day, Troy Barboza Torch Run, Memorial Day, Explorers’ Conference, Honolulu City Lights Electric Light Parade and the annual city employees’ Christmas party. At year’s end, reserve officers provided the city with a total of 16,623 hours of police service.

How many are there today? Don’t know. The reserve program isn’t mentioned in the department’s most recent annual report, except that several reserve officers are listed among retirees or award recipients.

The reserve officer indicted in the Honolulu case (and who entered a guilty plea last week), Joseph A. Becera, was listed among the 2014 retirees, with 37 years of service. And Becera was a four-time winner of “reserve officer of the year” honors.

I wonder what perks reserve officers enjoy, if any? Can they take special duty assignments for pay by third parties? Do their badges get them special treatment that no one talks about? I recall back a few decades when key legislators were awarded honorary deputy sheriff’s badges that could be used to get free parking and other benefits.

In any case, it seems like some follow-up is in order on the whole reserve officer program.

Trial of Waimana/Sandwich Isles exec now underway

The trial of Al Hee, president of Waimana Enterprises and the brother of former State Senator Clayton Hee, started yesterday with jury selection in Honolulu’s Federal District Court. Judge Susan Mollway is presiding.

According to the second superseding indictment filed on March 25, 2015, Hee allegedly pursued a plan to evade taxes by claiming personal expenses as business expenses, and failing to report those payments as income.

Just prior to trial, prosecutors agreed not to pursue charges contained in the indictment relating to transactions with the Board of Water Supply.

According to the indictment, Waimana Enterprises allegedly paid $2,750,033 of Hee’s personal expenses, including college tuition of $33,523, other college tuition and living expenses totaling over $718,000 characterized on the company’s books as “loan to shareholder,” personal massages costing $92,000 shown on the books as “consulting fees,” credit card payments of $121,000, and another $722,550.39 in payments to Hee’s children, who the indictment alleges “did little or no work” for Waimana Enterprises.

According to the government’s trial brief:

While attending college full-time on the mainland, defendant’s three children were put on WEI’s payroll, and paid a salary and fringe benefits, including retirement contributions. Defendant put his wife on WEI’s payroll, so that she too could receive a salary and benefits. In total, WEI paid approximately $722,550.39 in wages to defendant’s children, $590,201 in wages to his wife, and $443,103 for employee benefits for the wife and children. These amounts were deducted as legitimate business expenses, when in fact defendant’s wife and children did little or no work for WEI.

And those credit card charges? The indictment alleges:

(1) a trip to France/Switzerland made by his wife, daughter, and that daughter’s then- boyfriend, which he termed an “inspection” done for CCI; (2) a trip made by defendant’s wife and two daughters to President Barack Obama’s inauguration; (3) a trip to Disneyworld by defendant’s two daughters; (4) a four day trip to the Mauna Lani Bay resort on the Big Island for his family, characterized as a “stockholders meeting,” even though defendant was WEI’s sole shareholder; (5) a trip to Tahiti by defendant’s wife, two daughters, and son that he termed an “investigation” of an underwater cable; and (6) sundry other expenses including restaurant charges with defendant’s family members. These reimbursements were deducted by WEI as if they were legitimate business expenses and supported by directions or memoranda signed by defendant. Defendant failed to report the receipt of this money as income on his personal income tax returns.

There’s more, but you get the idea.

Hee’s lawyers, on the other hand, contend that this is just a routine dispute between a businessman and the IRS that has been unnecessarily escalated to the criminal level by the government.

Here’s a summary from Hee’s trial brief:

As the Supreme Court noted in Cheek v. United States, because of the complexity of our tax laws, criminal tax violations require more than a taxpayer just being wrong as to a particular question of tax law—it requires that the taxpayer be willful and intentionally violate a known legal duty. Accidental, inadvertent, mistaken, negligent, or even grossly negligent conduct does not constitute willful conduct.

We expect that the evidence will show that the accounting staff within Mr. Hee’s companies, as well as the outside accountants, were aware of and accepted the substance of many if not all of the tax reporting positions the government asserts were fraudulent. We expect that the evidence will also establish that Mr. Hee was in good faith at all times regarding his tax obligations. The government will fail to prove that Mr. Hee willfully signed and filed a false return or corruptly obstructed the IRS, because Mr. Hee lacked the specific intent required for these charges.

So it is going to be very interesting to see how this plays out.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.