Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Man found guilty in movie fires

By Debra Barayuga


Federal prosecutors say they will try to make sure Joseph "Joe Boy" Tavares is behind bars for some time after a jury convicted him of arson and conspiracy in the torching of movie equipment and trucks.

"We'll be looking at significant time for Mr. Tavares," said U.S. Attorney Steve Alm.

But Tavares' attorney, Richard Hoke, said he intends to appeal the verdict.

A federal jury yesterday found Tavares, 42, guilty of conspiring with George Cambra, president of Cambra Movie Production Trucks Inc., to burn trucks and equipment belonging to Mokulua Consultants Inc. and Auto Mastics Inc., two local companies that leased movie equipment to mainland producers.

The June 1991 fires caused the companies to close down and set the Hawaii film industry back a few years, prosecutors and film officials say.

The government had argued that Tavares, a Hawaii Teamsters Union member, used strong-arm tactics and extortion to gain control of the movie and TV production industry in Hawaii.

"Mr. Tavares behaved like a thug and used violence to get what he wanted," Alm said.

Tavares also was found guilty of attempting to extort a Walt Disney location manager filming "George of the Jungle" in 1996 and threatening to "send him back in pieces" for hiring people other than his friends as security.

He additionally was convicted of seizing film from a tourist who was taking pictures of a closed production set at Kualoa Ranch.

Tavares faces five years in prison for the conspiracy count, 10 years for each of two arson counts, and 20 years for extortion and robbery. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

Tavares denied setting the fires, saying he was at the movies and later at home with his girlfriend when the fires occurred. Hoke said he could not understand how Tavares could be found guilty based on Cambra's testimony.

The attorney had argued that Cambra, whose company was the only local one left that could supply mainland producers with movie trucks, stood to benefit from the fires, and not Tavares, who helped promote Hawaii to the mainland film industry.

Cambra pleaded guilty earlier this year to a single count of conspiring with Tavares to burn the trucks and providing him the diesel fuel and gasoline.

Cambra faces a maximum five years in prison when sentenced Oct. 12.

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