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In Brief | Big Island & State | Oct. 3, 2013

Police seek couple

for questioning

Big Island police are searching for a couple wanted for questioning in connection with a robbery.

At 3 a.m. Aug. 6, a 26-year-old Hilo man was reportedly assaulted in the parking lot of Coconut Island and had his pickup truck stolen. The truck, a white 2006 Toyota Tacoma with the license plate KYM755, has not been located, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

Police want to question 30-year-old John Curtis K. Kuhia and his wife, 36-year-old Shanna Y. L. Carvalho-Kuhia. Kuhia is described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 188 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. Carvalho-Kuhia is described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 300 pounds with brown eyes and brown hair. Their last known address was in Mountain View, police said.

Anyone with information on their whereabouts or the location of the truck should contact Detective Robert Almeida at 961-2386 or ralmeida@co.hawaii.hi.us.

Those who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 329-8181 in Kona or 961-8300 in Hilo and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Police charge Gaspar with truck theft

Police arrested and charged a Kona man for allegedly stealing a pickup truck from Kona International Airport.

Police said the man took the 2004 Toyota Tacoma from the airport’s parking lot sometime Saturday or Sunday. They found the truck Monday down an embankment off Kaloko Drive. Following an investigation, they arrested Colvin Gaspar, 21, of Kailua-Kona.

He was charged Tuesday with unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle and second-degree theft.

His bail was set at $20,000. He remained at the cellblock until his initial court appearance Wednesday.

Accused killer

pleads not guilty

Emotions boiled over as family and friends of a homicide victim couldn’t contain themselves while the accused killer was arraigned Wednesday in 3rd Circuit Court.

Seon Keoni Aki, 44, of Nanawale Estates pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the fatal shooting on May 20 of his next-door neighbor, 40-year-old Mateo. D. Balinbin Jr., at Balinbin’s Maui Street home. Police say Balinbin, aka “Braddah Boy,” was killed by a single gunshot to the head.

As Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Wharton entered a not guilty plea for Aki, one man blurted out, “Just give him the death sentence, already.”

A woman, visibly angry, rose to her feet and left the courtroom. On her way out, she exclaimed: “Now he can continue to breathe, even though he shot my son!”

Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara ordered Aki to appear for trial Nov. 4 at 8:30 a.m. Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Kagawa estimated that the trial would take four weeks. A six-count indictment dated Sept. 26 charges Aki with second-degree murder, terroristic threatening, use of a firearm in a felony, illegal place to keep pistol or revolver and prohibited possession of a firearm and ammunition.

The terroristic threatening charge is because Aki allegedly chased a neighbor, Don Sambrana, out of Balinbin’s house while brandishing a black semi-automatic pistol. According to court documents, Sambrana told police he was in the same room when the shooting occurred but didn’t actually see the shot being fired.

A bench warrant issued after the indictment orders Aki to be held without bail. He’s been in custody since the shooting and his bail had been previously set at $360,000. The judge maintained the no-bail status, but scheduled a bail hearing for Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Deadline for Naniloa bids is Oct. 18

The gauntlet has been thrown for interested buyers of the beleaguered Naniloa Volcanoes Resort.

Colliers International Hawaii, which is listing the 383-room hotel on Hilo’s Banyan Drive for sale, has set a deadline of Oct. 18 for sealed bids to be submitted, said David Farmer, the hotel’s bankruptcy trustee.

The hotel has been in bankruptcy since last November after being unable to cover loan payments or pay all of its bills.

Its debts include $250,000 to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for lease payments and more than $400,000 to Hawaii County for property taxes.

If no bids are submitted by the deadline, it will likely be up to the mortgage-holder, First Citizens Bank & Trust Co., to decide whether to acquire the hotel through a credit bid, Farmer said.

Farmer said he has spoken with “five or six” investors interested in the property but no one has made an offer.

“At least one has gone cool on us,” he said.

On Oct. 21, the federal bankruptcy court in Honolulu will also consider allowing the bankruptcy estate to assume the DLNR lease. That move would also require payment to DLNR for what it owes on the lease.

Farmer said the hope is to have a buyer selected and be able to transfer the lease to them at that time.

If no buyer is found, an extension will be requested, he said.

Hawaii bankruptcies hit lowest level in 5 years

HONOLULU — The number of Hawaii residents and businesses filing for bankruptcy fell in September to the lowest level in more than five years.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported 153 bankruptcies were filed in September, down more than 4 percent from the same month a year ago.

That’s the smallest number since February 2008 when there were 141.

Most were filed under Chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy code, which calls for the liquidation of debtor assets.

Oahu filings dropped 15 percent and Hawaii County cases fell 17 percent. Filings rose in Maui and Kauai counties.

Bankruptcy filings in Hawaii have been on a downward trend since 2010, as the job market has improved and consumer debt loads have declined.

Exam scheduled for suspect in Guam murder case

HAGATNA, Guam — A Guam man suspected of killing three tourists in February in Tumon will undergo a psychiatric examination next month by a Colorado psychologist.

Chad De Soto is charged with three counts of aggravated murder and 11 counts of attempted aggravated murder. Prosecutors say he drove his car onto a shopping area sidewalk and struck seven pedestrians, then exited and stabbed bystanders.

Two tourists from Japan, 81-year-old Kazuko Uehara and 28-year-old Rie Sugiyama, died of stab wounds. Fifty-one-year-old tourist Hitoshi Yokota died of injuries from the car’s impact.

De Soto has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness

Pacific Daily News reports the psychologist will evaluate De Soto and testify at his upcoming trial. The next court hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 18.

Investigators say guards profited

from prison gang

HONOLULU — A former Halawa Prison corrections officer profited from selling cigarettes to a prison gang and a second former guard received thousands in bribes, according to federal prosecutors.

FBI officials last week announced the indictment of 17 inmates in state custody and one former corrections officer, without going into detail of how state employees were involved, Hawaii News Now reported.

The indictment said the inmates were members of a prison gang known as “USO Family” that had participated in drug-trafficking, bribery and violence.

Former Halawa guard Feso Malufau, 54, was among those indicted in the document announced last week. He and five inmates were charged with racketeering conspiracy and with multiple acts of fraud, bribery and distribution of marijuana and crystal methamphetamine.

A previous federal indictment charged Malufau with taking money for smuggling contraband into the prison.

Federal authorities also are pursing Malufau and his wife for failing to disclose illicit income and a property in Hauula when they filed for bankruptcy in 2011.

Malufau was fired last September for reasons not connected to the prison gang operation, according to prison officials.

Former Halawa guard John Joseph Kalei Hall was indicted previously. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to smuggling cigarettes into the prison and selling them to gang members.

Investigators said Hall sold cigarettes for $500 per carton and gang members re-sold them to inmates. Federal prosecutors said Hall was paid $10,000 to $30,000 by gang members.

Cigarettes were banned from Hawaii prisons in 2010.

Hall resigned in February. He was sentenced to one year and one month in federal prison.

The indicted Hawaii inmates have been moved from Halawa Prison or other mainland facilities to federal custody.

American Samoa feels effects of federal shutdown

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — American Samoa’s governor has ordered all “nonessential operations” of the territory funded by federal money to shut down in line with the U.S. government’s partial shutdown.

Personnel earning salaries paid entirely with federal funds should stay home, according to the order that took effect Wednesday.

The only exceptions are the Department of Education, American Samoa Community College, and government-owned LBJ Medical Center, which is the territory’s sole hospital.

About 60 percent of American Samoa’s budget, which totals $455.8 million this fiscal year, is funded by federal money, and about one-third of the territorial government’s 6,000 workers are paid with federal funds.

“It is regrettable that this action is being taken, but we cannot jeopardize our financial integrity at the onset of this fiscal year,” said Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga.

Moliga urged his cabinet to make sure American Samoa maintains the quality of services for the territory’s 55,000 residents by having locally funded personnel fill the vacuum created by the federal shutdown.

The territory’s Department of Human and Social Services has delayed by a few days its monthly distribution of food stamps and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC.

By local and wire sources

Photo showed

YWAM officials

A photo caption published in the Sept. 23 edition failed to correctly identify the special guests disembarking the sailboat owned by Youth With A Mission.

The caption, which appeared on Page 4A, misidentified two of guests shown, who were YWAM Ships co-director Brett Curtis and YWAM founder Loren Cunningham.

They are not descendants of Henry Opukahaia, the first Hawaiian Christian.

It is the policy of West Hawaii Today to correct promptly any incorrect or misleading information when it is brought to the attention of the newspaper.