HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ransen Taito was just a child when he met Katherine Kealoha, a long time family friend who promised to help him and his younger sister after their father died in 2004.
“Your mom reached out to me,” Kealoha told Taito. Then, he says she gave them cash.
“She gave me and my sister a hundred bucks and I don’t know how old I was but, I was stoked. That’s probably the first time I ever had a hundred dollar bill.”
Kealoha became the sole trustee of the accounts for the siblings. Their father left them about $170,000 after a malpractice lawsuit.
Kealoha said she’d take care of it for them but didn’t tell them the total amount.
Over the years, Taito says Kealoha became simply known as ‘Aunty Kat’ and was always there to help them. She would take them out to eat, buy them school supplies, clothes, even gave him $5,000 to buy his first car when he was a teenager.
Taito turned 18 years old in November 2010.
He never questioned the times Kealoha had him sign paperwork relating to the account.
Once, she invited him to the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s office, where she was a high ranking deputy.
“She gave me a check and we sat down and signed some papers. I’ve signed blank papers, papers that had writing on it. I just signed whatever she told me to sign,” Taito said.
In April 2016, Kealoha picked him up in a Maserati, took him out to eat and told him he was going to the grand jury the next day.
She told him he had to testify that he got all the father’s money in the account or the feds would arrest his mother, because according to Kealoha, the mother stole it.
The day of the grand jury proceeding, Kealoha arranged for an attorney to meet Taito and his sister on the steps of the federal courthouse. “She said she couldn’t represent me, that someone would be there, that he was a super cool guy."
The attorney was Jake Delaplane, who worked with Kealoha at the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office.
Taito went in to the grand jury room and under oath, he lied as Kealoha coached him to do.
“My mom wasn’t going to jail on my watch,” Taito said.
While there, the special prosecutor, Michael Wheat, showed him checks, bank statements, and receipts proving Kealoha actually stole the money.
He learned that Kealoha withdrew from the Taito accounts on multiple dates for various reasons, to get home loans, pay off credit cards, even fund an affair with Big Island firefighter Jesse Ebersole by paying for his plane tickets and hotel rooms.
Taito said he was shocked by it all, “I still had a hard time believing it, I trusted her.”
“They didn’t believe their mother when the mother denied it," Michael Green, the Taitos’ current attorney says "They believed this lawyer, their trustee, their guardian.”
In January 2018, Taito pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to obstruct.
His record is now blemished with a federal crime.
Last week, when Kealoha pleaded guilty to bank fraud and covering up a crime for her brother, Taito says he felt like something else was taken from him, a chance to face her in court at trial.
“I wanted to confront her about everything," Taito says, "I don’t think she could look me in the eye and tell me, I stole your money. I stole you and your sister’s money. I lied to you guys about your mom. I don’t think she could do that.”
The federal government seized one of the Kealohas’ homes and money left over from the sale will go to the Taitos. While it’s still something, it’s a fraction of what their father left them when he died.