USA

Disgraced couple to be sentenced in Hawaii corruption case

A once-respected, now-estranged power couple are scheduled to be sentenced in Hawaii’s biggest corruption case

HONOLULU -- A once-respected, now-estranged power couple are scheduled to be sentenced Monday in Hawaii's biggest corruption case that unraveled after they framed a relative for stealing their home mailbox to keep him from revealing fraud that financed their fancy lifestyle.

In the morning, Katherine Kealoha, a former high-ranking Honolulu prosecutor is expected to hear how many years she'll spend in prison. Her husband, retired Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, will learn his sentence in a separate afternoon hearing.

Katherine Kealoha should go to prison for 14 years and her husband should be locked up for about half that time because they abused their positions of trust to commit corrupt acts at the highest levels of law enforcement, U.S. prosecutors said in sentencing recommendations.

The corruption included stealing from vulnerable victims — Katherine Kealoha’s own grandmother and uncle — framing the uncle for a crime he didn’t commit, and using members of a secret police unit. All these actions were taken to cover up fraud that enriched the Kealohas and to maintain their status of prestige, prosecutors have said.

A jury convicted them last year of conspiracy, along with two former officers who are scheduled to sentenced Tuesday.

Katherine Kealoha has been in a federal detention center since her conviction. Prosecutors want Louis Kealoha, who agreed to retire in 2017 after he became a target in the wide-ranging federal investigation, to be locked up as soon as he is sentenced.

To avoid a second trial, the Kealohas later pleaded guilty to bank fraud, saying they provided false information to obtain loans.

Katherine Kealoha also pleaded guilty to an identity theft charge, saying she got a police officer to forge a police report she used to explain negative information on a credit report. She also pleaded guilty to a charge involving protecting her physician brother from a drug dealing investigation.

In a letter to the judge last week, she blamed an addiction to prescription drugs for clouding her judgement.

Prosecutors said Katherine Kealoha bilked relatives, banks and children whose trusts she controlled and spent the stolen money on Maserati car payments, her firefighter lover, a hotel breakfast banquet when her husband became police chief and other luxuries.

Her grandmother, Florence Puana, and her uncle, Gerard Puana, said Katherine Kealoha came to them with an idea about taking out a reverse mortgage on her grandmother’s home to help buy a condo her uncle wanted. Kealoha said she would consolidate her debts and promised her uncle and grandmother that she would pay off the loan.

She used the money to buy her uncle’s condo, but instead of paying off the loan, she spent the leftover money, prosecutors said.

Louis Kealoha filed for divorce for they were convicted.

Florence Puana, 100, died in February.

Monday's sentencing hearings come after several postponements. Concern over the spread of the coronavirus delayed them in March. A Nov. 3 date was changed after officials realized that was Election Day.

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