'I felt like I was nothing': Grandma who launched Kealoha probe speaks out

Published: Aug. 24, 2017 at 9:52 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 25, 2017 at 10:44 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The federal investigation into former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, began with the allegations of one woman, a family member who turned 98 years old Thursday.

Florence Puana has not spoken publicly about the family feud, hoping for vindication from the FBI, but she realizes she can't wait much longer and may not live to see the federal case play out.

"I felt, I felt like I was nothing," said Puana, about the bitter dispute between her and her granddaughter.

In 2011, Puana accused her granddaughter of emptying their joint bank account of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The money was from a reverse mortgage Kealoha arranged for Puana's Wilhelmina Rise home, the home she raised her nine children in.

When the money disappeared, Puana was forced to sell the home. She now lives with her daughter Charlee Malott.

"For a long time mom, felt so guilty," said Malott. "She and dad made a pact, whoever went first, they would hold on to the house and when they left, the house would be sold and that (money) would be distributed to the children."

Puana and her son, Gerard, filed a civil suit against Kealoha over the missing money. Before that case went to trial, Puana says her granddaughter tried to get Puana declared legally incompetent, unable to control her own affairs. But doctors who examined her disagreed.

"Incompetent? I am not," Puana said.

Kealoha is now being investigated by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which overseas attorney's actions, to see if she falsely made that claim to discredit her grandmother before trial.

Also before trial, Kealoha accused Gerard Puana in the videotaped theft of their mailbox, an allegation federal prosecutors have alleged was an attempt to frame him.

The Kealohas did win the civil case in state court, but the federal, criminal case into the mailbox theft and other abuses of power continue into a second year, with more witnesses appearing Thursday to testify before the grand jury.

The Kealohas maintain they did nothing wrong.

Their attorney, Myles Breiner, said the high-profile nature of the feud fuels the hostility.

"This is something that happens in a lot of families," he said. "Because the Kealohas are well known because of the nature of their jobs it became a major media event."

Puana believes her granddaughter will be indicted and has mixed feelings about that.

"I just want her to realize what she had done," she said. "Because what she did, I can't even imagine anybody doing what she did."

The accusations by the Puanas seems to have just been the beginning.

Michael Wheat, a federal, special prosecutor from California has been assigned to the case, and three other federal prosecutors have now been assigned to assist. It has become clear the case has expanded to include multiple other police officers and multiple other allegations of wrongdoing.

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