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Meeting with federal prosecutors could mean public corruption probe nearly finished

Assistant U.S. Attorneys and an FBI agent leave the city prosecutor's office after a meeting in...
Assistant U.S. Attorneys and an FBI agent leave the city prosecutor's office after a meeting in July(None)
Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 6:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Assistant United States Attorneys and an FBI agent paid a visit to the Honolulu Prosecutor’s office last month for a meeting that lasted about an hour, sources said.

Hawaii News Now cameras were waiting outside as the team, led by special prosecutor Michael Wheat, assigned to investigate public corruption exited the building on Richards Street.

Legal experts said there are a variety of reasons the group would meet with the city office at this point in the investigation.

Alexander Silvert, a retired federal public defender, believes the meeting was a courtesy call, letting the local officials know that an indictment is coming soon for the former head of the office, Keith Kaneshiro.

City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro is the target of an ongoing federal investigation. (Image:...
City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro is the target of an ongoing federal investigation. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

“At this point they’re there to say, we’re ready, Here’s what we got. Here’s what’s about to happen. We want to let you know this so that you can be prepared,” Silvert said.

But former city prosecutor turned defense attorney Megan Kau believes the meeting was needed to verify that files and records turned over by the office are accurate and complete.

“Because Keith Kaneshiro and his administration, even (former First Deputy) Dwight Nadamoto to an extent were uncooperative with the federal government, it’s very reasonable for Michael Wheat to believe that maybe I didn’t get everything,” Kau said.

Kaneshiro had to be forced by a judge to turn over files and records in 2016, when Wheat and his team were prosecuting one of Kaneshiro’s top deputies, Katherine Kealoha, who is now serving 13 years in federal prison sentence for conspiracy and obstruction.

Legal experts say the Kealoha's attorneys not only at risk of being kicked off case, legal...
Legal experts say the Kealoha's attorneys not only at risk of being kicked off case, legal practices put in jeopardy

Her estranged husband, Honolulu’s ex-police chief, Louis Kealoha, is also locked up.

Kaneshiro received a target letter from the Department of Justice in 2018, when he too became a focus of the case.

He was on paid leave for two years before his term expired and Steve Alm was elected to replace him.

It’s been nearly five years since the feds started looking at Kaneshiro and the statute of limitations could be approaching soon.

“I believe the reason why it’s taken so long is (the feds) continue to dig up dirt,” said Kau.

Attorney Sheri Tanaka with clients Lois Mitsunaga and Chan Mitsunaga as they leave the federal...
Attorney Sheri Tanaka with clients Lois Mitsunaga and Chan Mitsunaga as they leave the federal courthouse earlier this month(None)

“They did their initial investigation thinking that there was one crime when in fact, digging into the facts and the evidence showed that there were multiple crimes.”

More recently, business executives with engineering firm, Mitsunaga and Associates, Inc., have also been summoned to the grand jury.

Ryan Shindo of Mitsunaga & Associates, Inc., leaves the federal courthouse after appearing...
Ryan Shindo of Mitsunaga & Associates, Inc., leaves the federal courthouse after appearing before the grand jury(None)

Relatives of the owner have been called to testify before the grand jury, and top level employees have been ordered to cooperate by a judge.

One executive was jailed for days for allegedly ignoring a grand jury subpoena.

Arnold Koya of the engineering firm Mitsunaga & Associates, Inc.
Arnold Koya of the engineering firm Mitsunaga & Associates, Inc.(None)

The firm was a long time donor to Kaneshiro’s campaign.

The Honolulu prosecutor’s office declined to comment about the visit from the feds.

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