State 5.25


Kauai police: Uptick in counterfeit money

LIHUE, Kauai — Kauai police are warning about an uptick in counterfeit bills being used on the island.

Assistant Chief Roy Asher says once someone accepts a counterfeit bill, there’s almost nothing that can be done to recover lost funds.

Asher says police are urging business owners to be more careful when accepting payments.

Police say counterfeit cash ranges from false bills printed on regular paper to actual low-value bills that are washed and reprinted with a higher denomination. Authorities say washed bills are tougher to spot because counterfeit pens won’t always work on them.

Kauai police say businesses and others handling cash should compare bills with genuine notes and closely examine bills before accepting them.

Small, mildly venomous snake found at Hickam

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Oahu — A small, mildly venomous snake has been captured at Hickam Air Force Base.

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture says its inspectors now have the foot-long snake, which was captured Thursday afternoon in a maintenance bay near the airfield.

The snake has been identified as a juvenile ornate tree snake, which is mildly venomous. Ornate tree snakes are related to the brown tree snake, which has had devastating effects on Guam’s ecosystem.

It’s not known how the snake got to Hawaii. The Air Force continues to search the area.

Snakes have no natural predators in Hawaii and pose a serious threat to the fragile island environment. Snakes can prey on native birds and eggs.

Illegal animals can be turned in under the state’s amnesty program.

Thick vog causing health problems

HONOLULU — Hawaii residents, many of them with asthma and allergies, are suffering from the health effects of thick vog.

But the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that relief could be on the way.

Vog is the term used for “volcanic fog.” It is a haze comprising gas and aerosols of tiny particles and acidic droplets that form when sulfur dioxide and other gases emitted from Kilauea volcano interact with sunlight, oxygen, moisture and dust.

The tradewinds normally blow vog southwest and away from Hawaii. They returned Thursday and are expected to strengthen over the next few days. Forecaster Peter Donaldson with the National Weather Service says the dense haze should subside by Memorial Day weekend.

Kauai indictment in former Alaska woman’s murder

HONOLULU — Prosecutors will be able to pursue Hawaii’s harshest penalty against a former Alaska man charged with murdering a woman.

A Kauai grand jury on Thursday returned an indictment against 26-year-old Steven Wilson for second-degree murder in last month’s stabbing death of 21-year-old Kendra Lewis.

Police say Wilson and Lewis relocated to Kauai from Alaska at the beginning of the year and were living together at the time of her death. He is being held on $1 million bond.

The Kauai prosecuting attorney’s office says grand jurors also found the murder was “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity.” That will allow the state to seek an enhanced sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Lewis was found dead in her room at a condominium.

Father, daughter accused of bilking investors

WAILUKU, Maui — A federal grand jury has returned a 17-count indictment against a father and daughter on Maui accused of operating a pyramid scheme.

The Maui News reports that 65-year-old George Lindell and 39-year-old Holly Hoaeae, owners of The Mortgage Store, are accused of bilking more than $8.6 million from unsuspecting investors over a five-year period.

Federal prosecutors say the charges include mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The government is seeking forfeiture of various properties and assets, including the money that the two are alleged to have made as a result of the fraud.

Kaneohe man pleads guilty in Ponzi scheme

HONOLULU — A Kaneohe man is pleading guilty to wire fraud in a scheme that defrauded dozens of Hawaii families.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Tong says Jason Pascua pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court.

According to a criminal complaint, Pascua ran a company that purported to be in the concert and nightclub promotions industry. Prosecutors say he devised a scheme offering short-term investment opportunities promising returns of 25 percent to 50 percent.

FBI spokesman Tom Simon says he raised $1.5 million from 31 families.

Some investors received money that really came from the investments of others, commonly known as a Ponzi scheme.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 11.

He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Guam gambling bill flares ongoing fight

HAGATNA, Guam — A bill to tax gambling machines in Guam to pay for hospital operations is flaring up a fight between the attorney general’s office, the tax department and machine owners and lawmakers on all sides of the issue.

Pacific Daily News reported that territorial lawmakers had a lengthy discussion on the issue on Friday.

The bill is pushing to generate at least $3 million per year by taxing companies involved with providing the machines. The bill would also tax gross receipts, license fees and income taxes.

But Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas says the bill would legitimize the machines. He told lawmakers he would consider challenging the bill in court if it becomes law.

Two cases on whether the machines are legal were dropped in court last month.

By wire sources