Kauai economicLIHUE >> Politicians and business leaders on Kauai and throughout the state said they were baffled by the FBI arrest yesterday of Gary Baldwin, head of the Kauai Economic Development Board, on theft and fraud charges dating from 1986 in Phoenix.
Theft and fraud charges for Gary
Baldwin surprise Hawaii officials
By Anthony Sommer
According to the FBI, Baldwin was indicted by a Maricopa County grand jury on Sept. 24, 1986, on four counts of felony theft and one count of felony fraud for allegedly stealing $300,000 from the Dulaney Eye Clinic in Phoenix. The FBI said he was working as a consultant to the company.
Baldwin has been turned over to the Honolulu Police Department, according to the FBI.
"It is now up to Maricopa County to come and get him," said Kevin Rickett, the FBI's chief legal counsel in Honolulu.
An FBI news release said Baldwin learned of the 1986 indictment, wrote a fake suicide note and disappeared from Phoenix.
Nicole Pena, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, said she could find no record of a 16-year-old grand jury indictment naming Baldwin in the agency's records. There was speculation that the indictment was sealed and never placed in the records because Baldwin never was arrested.
People who have known Baldwin for 20 years say he moved to Kauai in 1982 and never lived anywhere else since then. Baldwin is a close ally of U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye who has helped Baldwin in his campaign to attract high-tech companies to Kauai using the Navy's Pacific Missile Range as a focal point.
"I was saddened by the allegations," Inouye said in a statement released by his office yesterday.
Others said they were shocked.
"I'm really speechless at this news," said Kauai Mayor Maryanne Kusaka.
Baldwin's girlfriend for the past decade, Pam Parker, also said she was "totally bewildered."
"Gary never goes to the mainland except for very short business trips and he's never mentioned ever being in Arizona," said Parker, who also has been Baldwin's business partner and most recently marketing director of the Kauai Economic Development Board.
Parker was at work when she learned of Baldwin's arrest from a reporter.
"No, he's home in bed with a terrible cold," she insisted. Baldwin and Parker live in a 417-square-foot cottage on Kauai's north shore.
The FBI said Baldwin is 53, but a 1997 article in the now-defunct Inside Kauai Business magazine said he was born Jan. 17, 1947, in St. Louis, Mo., which would make him 55.
The magazine named Baldwin, who is not related to the prominent Baldwin family of Alexander & Baldwin Inc., as one of the two most politically powerful people on Kauai along with Democratic Party patriarch Turk Tokita, according to the article written by Jackie Kido, now communications director for Gov. Ben Cayetano.
Cayetano said yesterday: "Gary Baldwin was a pretty good public citizen in Hawaii, and served the people of Kauai and the state well on the Hawaii Tourism Authority. This latest news comes as quite a shock."
According to the article, Baldwin became active in politics shortly after arriving on Kauai. In 1984, he became a member of the board of directors of the Kauai Visitors Bureau and regularly went with county officials to mainland tourism trade shows until 1990.
In 1991, according to the article, Baldwin became involved with the Kauai Economic Development Board, of which he is now president and chief executive officer. He was appointed to the Kauai Planning Commission in 1996 by Kusaka and served twice as chairman.
Baldwin was appointed Kauai's first representative on the board of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, Baldwin was flying to Honolulu for daily meetings for several months and was hospitalized with heart problems and exhaustion. He declined a second term and left the HTA at the end of last month.
From 1982 to 1993, Baldwin managed the Thrifty car rental agency on Kauai. In 1993 he bought the local National car rental franchise, which he sold in 1997. He also has owned two ice cream stores and a bakery, none of which are still open.
State Sen. Jonathan Chun (D, South Kauai) noted: "Everybody is surprised at this charge against him. Gary has been in the open ever since he came to Kauai. I can't explain why it took the FBI so long to find him. If anybody wanted to look for him, it wasn't going to be hard."
Star-Bulletin reporter Crystal Kua
contributed to this report.
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