WAILUKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - An accused con man who was just released from jail is considering a run for Maui County mayor. Nelson Waikiki Jr. was granted supervised release until his sentencing later this year for an investment scam. Waikiki, 49, accepted a plea deal in an investment scheme involving Opunui Water Company and Opunui Land and Water Company. He allegedly swindled 23 people out of more than $141,100 between 2008 and 2012.
"He was saying that he was running a water system and that eventually the federal government was going to require everybody, any kind of water coming out of Hawaii, to go through his system and that's why it would be great to invest with him," explained Tung Chan, commissioner of securities.
Maui realtor and developer Bill Gresham met Waikiki through a former employee. After some initial hesitation, Gresham invested and lost $30,000.
"I got hoodwinked," said Gresham. "I hate to admit that cause I usually do my homework and I feel a little remiss in not having done that."
According to authorities, Waikiki told investors that he had partnered with high-profile politicians, including President Barack Obama.
"You can't forget that he said Obama cause that was for sure. That's what he told me, that he had looked at this, he thought it was a great opportunity. Blah, blah, blah. He wanted to support the Hawaiian community," said Gresham.
Waikiki had been in jail for nearly 10 months awaiting trial. Under the deal, he'll plead guilty and have to pay back all the money within five years. If he does, he won't have to serve additional jail time. He also faces a $200,000 civil penalty and is barred from the industry.
"I think what he did is just unfathomable and not just to me, but to people who gave him everything they had," Gresham said.
After being granted supervised release on Friday until his sentencing in December, he pulled papers to run for mayor. Waikiki has until June 3 to file his nomination papers. He unsuccessfully ran for the office in 2006. If he wins this time around, his felony convictions would prevent him from taking the job.