HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Florence Puana, a central figure in the case against the Kealohas, died Thursday morning at home, family members said. She was 100 years old.
Puana lived long enough to see her granddaughter go to prison for stealing from her and her son.
Puana’s son, Gerard, was set up for stealing a mailbox as part of a campaign to discredit him by his niece, former deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha.
Kealoha also forced Florence Puana to sell her family home on Wilhelmina Rise after convincing her to take out a reverse mortgage from which Kealoha stole the balance to finance a lavish lifestyle for her and her husband, then Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha.
The former chief was also convicted in the mailbox frame-up.
In the mailbox trial, federal prosecutors feared Florence Puana would not live long enough to testify, so she endured a grueling, hours-long video deposition that was later shown to jurors.
“It was heart wrenching and the jury had said that that was a key piece of evidence,” said Alexander Silvert of the federal public defender’s office. He represented Gerard Puana when the Kealohas tried to have him prosecuted for the fake crime.
After being convicted by a jury, the Kealohas chose to plead guilty to additional charges, including bank fraud and identity theft.
Puana, the feisty matron, mother of nine children, defied predictions and survived to see the convictions which vindicated her in a decade-long financial battle with the Kealohas.
“She was a very brave and courageous woman to do what she did,” Silvert said, “I know personally that it hurt her and she was not happy with having to go through this experience but I also know that it takes someone with a strong mind and body and will to do what she did.”
Recently, one of the Kealoha’s attorneys finally paid back some of the money Puana lost in a civil trial in which Katherine Kealoha lied to the jury about the stolen money
The Puana family issued the following statement:
“The Florence M. Puana ohana wish to express our sincere appreciation to all our family and friends for their prayers, comfort and support over the years. ... (Florence) has gone to be with her savior. We ask that you respect our privacy as we deal with her passing.”