President Obama's close friend arrested during prostitution sting

Robert Richard Titcomb
Robert Richard Titcomb
Frank Lavoie
Frank Lavoie
Titcomb, in flower print shirt, with President Barack Obama
Titcomb, in flower print shirt, with President Barack Obama

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of President Obama's closest friends is scheduled to appear at Honolulu District Court next month, after he allegedly solicited sex from an undercover officer.

Police arrested Robert Richard Titcomb, 49, of Waialua on suspicion of prostitution Monday night.

Bobby Titcomb and President Obama have been close friends since their childhood days at Punahou School. The two are frequently seen on the news golfing, playing basketball and dining together when the Obama family vacations in Hawaii.

But the President's pal is now making news for a different reason -- his arrest during a prostitution sting in Downtown Honolulu.

"After every sting, when you find out who the people are, you're always surprised that they're school teachers or other people in the community or well-known people," Frank Lavoie, former Downtown Neighborhood Board chair, said. "Nothing goes by us now. We believe anything."

Police say the suspect showed up at the intersection of South Street and Pohukaina Street Monday night to meet an escort from an online service. Titcomb allegedly offered to pay the escort, who was actually an undercover officer, $100 for sex.

It's what police call a "reverse sting" -- an operation designed to net Johns instead of prostitutes.

"Prostitutes obviously are committing crimes, but some of them are victims as well," Lavoie said. "So we want to stop the Johns from giving them business."

Also arrested on suspicion of prostitution at the same location Monday night were Joseph C. Chavez, 48, Jon M. Hatakenaka, 51, and Todd T. Shirai, 46.

HPD has been conducting prostitution stings in the Downtown Honolulu area in response to community complaints.

"It's one of the major issues," Lavoie said. "Every month at neighborhood board meetings, we always talk to the police about the prostitution. Lots of time it's near schools. It's where people live in residences. It's really a quality of life issue."

Titcomb, Chavez and Shirai were released from police custody after each posting $500 bail. Hatakenaka is free after posting $1,000 bail. The four suspects are due in court May 2.

"I'm just glad the police are doing their job," Lavoie said. "Hopefully, the Legislature will continue looking at more legislation to help us solve the problem."

The maximum punishment for prostitution as a petty misdemeanor is 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Titcomb had no comment when reached by Hawaii News Now. There was no immediate response from the White House.

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