Hawaii corruption trial focuses on alleged fake notary
HONOLULU (AP) — Jurors in a Hawaii corruption trial heard testimony Friday about an imaginary notary U.S. authorities say former Honolulu deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha invented and whose signature appears on documents she drafted for the uncle she’s accused of framing.
Kealoha and her husband, former police chief Louis Kealoha, are on trial with former and current officers. They’re accused of abusing their positions and conspiring to frame Gerard Puana for stealing the Kealohas’ home mailbox.
Prosecutors say the Kealohas wanted to silence Puana, who is a brother of Katherine Kealoha’s father, to keep him from revealing fraud that financed their lavish lifestyle. They also wanted to discredit him in a lawsuit he and his mother filed claiming Katherine Kealoha stole money from them in a reverse mortgage scheme.
Jurors Friday listened to portions of a 2013 deposition for the lawsuit, where Kealoha had difficulty explaining who notarized Puana’s trust document, which listed Kealoha as trustee and is notarized by Alison Lee Wong.
Kealoha said she knows an Alison Wong and last saw her in 2008 or 2009 at Home Depot. But she wasn’t the one who notarized the document.
Puana testified earlier in the week that he didn’t know Kealoha created a trust in his name.
Forensic document examiner David Oleksow testified Thursday that he’s “virtually certain” Puana didn’t sign the document. Because it’s an attempt to copy Puana’s signature, Oleksow said he couldn’t determine who really signed it. The notary’s signature, he said, is similar to Kealoha’s handwriting.
In an attempt to show jurors that Alison Lee Wong isn’t a real person, prosecutors called Kealoha’s longtime friend, security guard Rick Ornellas, to testify about emails he received from firstname.lastname@example.org in 2011.
An email to Ornellas and others __ including the firefighter lover prosecutors say Kealoha showered bilked money on — invited them to a party for Kealoha. The email from Wong described herself as Kealoha’s secretary.
Ornellas, who has served on boards with Kealoha including at Star of Sea School in Honolulu, said he never met Wong. Via email, he asked Wong several times to call him, but he never received a phone call.
He emailed saying he would attend the gathering, but Wong later emailed saying it was canceled.
On June 22, 2013, Kealoha called 911 to report that her home mailbox was stolen. She identified Puana in surveillance footage as the suspect. Police arrested Puana, who eventually went to trial for the theft. A judge declared a mistrial after the then-chief gave improper testimony. The case was later dismissed.
Questions about the police department-owned surveillance footage at the Kealoha home prompted an investigation by the Honolulu Ethics Commission, former executive director Charles Totto testified.
The commission put the investigation into possible misuse of city resources on hold, but Totto didn’t explain why.
The Kealohas lodged their own complaints against Totto alleging he opened a malicious investigation because of a vendetta against the ex-chief.
The trial will take a break next week and resume on June 17.