Prosecutors may drop anBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
agreement with Hebaru over
Prosecutors say one of Michael Kahapea's former co-defendants in the Ewa Villages scam trial could be in trouble after giving conflicting statements in court.
Honolulu businessman Claude Hebaru testified yesterday morning that he received some $2 million in relocation payments from the city, money prosecutors say was paid for bogus claims.
Hebaru said Kahapea instructed him and a company he set up, Titan Moving and Hauling, to write cashier checks totaling $1.6 million to various subcontractors.
The remaining $300,000 to $400,000 was cashed and divided between himself and Kahapea, Hebaru said.
He also said he never gave Kahapea sheets of paper with Titan Moving and Hauling letterhead, paper prosecutors contend were used to create false bid documents.
Under cross-examination by defense attorneys yesterday, however, Hebaru said he and Kahapea split only $120,000 and that he gave Kahapea sheets of paper that were blank except for Titan's letterhead.
Hebaru, in April, pleaded no contest to five counts of first-degree theft, money laundering and failing to file tax returns.
Prosecutors then agreed to drop more than 40 other counts against him for his cooperation against Kahapea.
Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee said conflicting statements made by Hebaru constituted a material breach of the agreement he had with prosecutors.
"We will be reviewing what transpired today in court and recommending to (Chief Prosecutor) Peter Carlisle that our agreement be set aside because of the breach," Lee said.
"That means he could be prosecuted for all the charges, we can hold him to whatever he's pleaded to, or file for enhanced sentencing," Lee said.
The latter could increase the maximum allowable sentence against him from 10 years in prison to 20 years, he said.
Lee added that his office did not agree to recommend leniency in sentencing for Hebaru's full cooperation except that it would "document what cooperation he's given us."
When asked on the stand by defense attorneys, Hebaru said he feared reprisals from prosecutors for his conflicting statements.
Hebaru's attorney, David Gierlach, could not be reached for comment at the end of yesterday's court proceedings.
Hebaru, while on the stand, acknowledged that he did no work for the money and that he now realizes what he did was wrong. The owner and president of Pest Management Hawaii, Hebaru said he first met and became acquainted with Kahapea at the Crystal Palace hostess bar in the late 1980s.
As his relationship with Kahapea grew, he said, the housing official approached him about making money by subcontracting relocation work at his behest.
Hebaru said he was going through difficult times financially, partly because he had a pregnant girlfriend and was trying to support two families at the same time.