Defense lawyer: game room employee killed over theft of $1,500

A memorial at the Maunakea Street gambling establishment.
A memorial at the Maunakea Street gambling establishment.

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A makeshift memorial on the door of an alleged gambling establishment in Chinatown continued to grow Tuesday, with messages of love for a man many knew as "Billy."

His real name, according to court documents, was Duc Pham, 42, and he was beaten to death reportedly over the theft of gambling money.

"It was all over $1,500," Michael Green, defense attorney, said.

Green was retained by three of the four murder suspects -- Manu Tonga, Maauga Imoa and Sione Vulangi. He admits his clients beat the victim, but claims someone else was the heavy.

"Ultimately the evidence will be that they participated, but nothing close to the injuries that caused the death," he said.

The fourth suspect is Alexander Nguyen, who's in protective custody away from the other three.

According to a police affidavit, Imoa and Vulangi told investigators Nguyen punched and kicked Pham, and struck him in the head with a heavy chain because he had stolen money from the game room.

"When he finally admitted what he had done, apparently somebody snapped," Green said. "I think it was one person. I think that person just created havoc on this man's body."

So is Nguyen the heavy or simply the scapegoat? Prosecutors declined comment while the case is pending.

Green described his clients as low-paid doormen at the Maunakea Street establishment.

"This is a new place, a new game room, but it's notorious," he said. "There's a lot of stuff going on in there that should not be going on in there."

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