Ex-police officers convicted in Kealoha corruption scandal will spend years behind bars

Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 at 5:06 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced the two former Honolulu officers convicted in the Kealoha corruption scandal, saying that both violated the public’s trust.

On Tuesday afternoon, former officer Minh Hung “Bobby” Nguyen was sentenced to 4 1/2 years behind bars.

Nguyen was part of an elite HPD team, working as a “footman,” and was related to the Kealohas by marriage.

Nguyen’s attorney sought to argue that his defendant was simply following orders. But federal prosecutors said Nguyen was central to the conspiracy.

“There’s something called basic human decency,” said Prosecutor Michael Wheat. “He took an oath as a police officer to do the right thing.”

Chief Judge Michael Seabright agreed with prosecutors, saying Nguyen was a willing participant in the Kealohas’ scheme and “in the middle of the effort” to frame an innocent man with a crime.

“He embraced the Kealohas. He embraced the lies,” Seabright said. “When I look at what he did and how he had a supporting role in this conspiracy, it’s clear to me that he was all in.”

Earlier on Tuesday, former HPD Lt. Derek Hahn was sentenced to 42 months in prison — 3 1/2 years — for his role in the conspiracy. He headed up in the elite HPD team that answered to ex-Police Chief Louis Kealoha.

Of the four defendants convicted in the so-called “Mailbox Trial,” he was sentenced to the least amount of time because the judge said he was the only one who did not lie under oath to cover up their crimes.

Despite that, his attorney, said they will appeal.

“This was not a slam dunk case and there’s no reason for us to lay down at this point and stop fighting,” said Victor Bakke.

[Read more: Calling their corruption ‘shocking,’ judge goes above guidelines in sentencing Kealohas]

[Read more: The Kealohas leave behind a trail of victims and ruined reputations]

Seabright said Hahn’s fingerprints “were all over” the effort to frame an innocent man, Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, with a crime he didn’t commit in order to discredit him during a family financial feud.

And he said at any point, Hahn could have pushed back. He didn’t.

“No one was willing to challenge or question the chief,” Seabright said.

The officers learned their fates a day after the Kealohas did.

On Monday, Seabright sentenced former high-ranking deputy city prosecutor Katherine Kealoha to 13 years in prison — going above the sentencing guidelines of 10 years.

Hours later, her estranged husband and the ex-police chief was sentenced to seven years behind bars.

The two were also ordered to pay nearly $700,000 in restitution to their victims.

The Kealohas, Hahn and Nguyen were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction in June 2019.

Their crimes stem from their involvement in a years-long investigation that started with a mailbox theft.

In June 2013, surveillance video showed someone taking a mailbox from the Kealohas’ former home in Kahala.

At the time, Katherine Kealoha was in a financial feud over hundreds of thousands of dollars with her uncle, Gerard Puana. Puana eventually went on federal trial for the mailbox theft, but Louis Kealoha caused a mistrial, saying Puana had a prior robbery conviction, which Kealoha knew was not true.

At every sentencing hearing this week, Charlee Malott spoke on behalf of the Puana family.

At sentencing, Nguyen was the only one who did not look at or acknowledge her.

“Today was a little bit, kinda hard and when he didn’t look at me and I could really at least get some connection, it was hard,” Malott said.

In addition to serving as the head of the Criminal Intelligence Unit at HPD, Hahn was a business partner with Katherine Kealoha in a solar company.

Nguyen, meanwhile, was the first to tell investigators that the man in the grainy surveillance video was Puana.

This story will be updated.

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