After sentencing, the Kealohas’ string of victims search for closure

Updated: Nov. 30, 2020 at 4:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In federal court on Monday, Katherine Kealoha’s uncle heard something from her that he hadn’t heard before: An apology.

“I truly am very sorry for everything,” Kealoha said, in a statement before her sentencing.

“To my uncle especially, I know that he has through so much pain and through so much hurt ... and for that I am truly sorry.”

But Gerard Puana, who the Kealohas tried to frame with a federal crime, says it will take him some time before he can forgive ― and heal.

“She sounded very genuine. But as for me, I’ve got much further to go,” Puana said.

Kealoha was sentenced to 13 years behind bars Monday for her role as the mastermind of an elaborate conspiracy to frame Puana with the theft of her mailbox in a bid to discredit him.

At the time, they were locked in a bitter family dispute over Katherine Kealoha’s years of financial fraud.

Her estranged husband Louis, meanwhile, was sentenced to seven years behind bars.

Other victims were also heard in court Monday.

During Katherine Kealoha’s hearing, a statement was read from Kealoha’s grandmother, Florence Puana. She died in February at 100, years after losing her family home because of Kealoha’s financial crimes. In the statement, she said Kealoha broke her family apart by her “ruthless scheme.”

“You framed my son, Gerry, and unlawfully arrested him. I was in shock and in constant fear for his and my family’s safety. It all took a tremendous toll on my health and my heart, in particular.”

Charlotte Malott, Gerard Puana’s sister, said she also can’t yet forgive Katherine Kealoha for all the harm she has caused.

“We take solace in knowing that the people involved in this conspiracy have been stopped,” Malott said. “God tells us to forgive and I’m working on it.”

During Louis Kealoha’s sentencing hearing, Malott also read a moving statement on behalf of her family, saying that he terrorized Gerard Puana by directing officers to follow him and eventually arrest him in the parking lot of his church.

“You, Louis, are an extreme disgrace to your profession,” Malott said, addressing the court.

“Until today, you have never apologized or expressed the slightest regret for the pain you inflicted on our mother or our brother or our family. For the years of torment and misery.”

Katherine Kealoha has been behind bars since her conviction in June 2019 and will begin serving her term immediately. Her husband, meanwhile, is unlikely to begin serving time until spring 2021.

Ransen Taito, another victim of Katherine Kealoha’s financial schemes, said he still feels “humiliated” that he believed Kealoha. In 2018, Taito admitted to lying to the federal grand jury that was investigating the Kealohas.

He said Katherine Kealoha told him that if he didn’t lie “she could lose her job and that his mother could go to jail.”

After Kealoha’s sentencing hearing, Taito said: “I don’t wish the worst for her. I don’t wish the best. I just hope it doesn’t happen again.”

In his address to the court before sentencing Kealoha, Judge Michael Seabright noted that her victims also included the general public.

“The events underlying this case have had a real and measurable impact on our community. The conduct of the defendants have truly shaken confidence in our governing institutions, most notably HPD,” Seabright said. “The system worked here, but boy, it took a long time.”

The Honolulu Police Department acknowledged that erosion of public trust in a statement Monday.

“For the last three years, the HPD has been working hard to repair and rebuild the public trust that was broken by these officers,” Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said, in the statement.

“We are glad that this chapter is finally being closed.”

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