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Hawaii Supreme Court rules forfeitures of sweepstakes machines improper

The Honolulu Prosecutor’s office and HOD may be forced to return hundreds of sweepstakes machines under a ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 4:49 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office and the Honolulu Police Department may be forced to return hundreds of sweepstakes machines under a ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

The owner of the machines said the ruling is further vindication from a prosecution riddled with misconduct.

“It gives me the satisfaction of one last victory and vindication for a case involving so much abuses of power by (former) Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro,” said Tracy Yoshimura, owner of PJY Enterprises LLC.

The ruling puts a likely end to a bitter legal and political battle between sweepstakes arcade operators and Kaneshiro, who obtained a 414-count indictment against Yoshimura and his partners, in the state’s largest ever white-collar criminal case.

But the case was thrown out twice — in 2014 and 2016 — for prosecutorial misconduct due to tainted evidence and tainted testimony.

Yoshimura — who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending himself — even mounted a campaign to impeach Kaneshiro — who was later forced to resign in 2020 after he received a target letter from federal prosecutors.

“They don’t realize the impact it has on innocent lives and people,” Yoshimura said.

Yoshimura’s attorney Keith Kiuchi said the Supreme Court ruling has broader implications for other properties that were improperly seized from his client and others under Hawaii’s forfeiture laws.

“There’s another 150 machines and we’re going to want those machines back because they never filed for civil forfeiture,” he said.

Kiuchi added that in 2017 Maui police confiscated dozens of machines owned by another company at an arcade under similar circumstances. He said those machines and other seized items were worth more than $250,000.

HPD and the Honolulu Prosecutor’s office had no comment, saying they’re still studying the ruling.

Yoshimura said he’ll likely sell the returned machines to buyers outside the state.

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