Former investigator faces theft charges
At issue is the theft of Prosecutor's Office arms and equipment
A former supervising prosecutor's investigator faces criminal charges two years after Honolulu police and the Prosecutor's Office began investigating the theft of equipment.
An Oahu grand jury indicted Craig Whang on Wednesday on four counts of second-degree theft and one count of third-degree theft, a misdemeanor, allegedly involving the theft of weapons and other law enforcement equipment from the Prosecutor's Office, his attorney, Michael Green, confirmed.
Whang, an investigator with city prosecutors since 1992, is currently on stress leave and was out of town on a mainland trip with his daughter when the indictment came down. He could not be reached for comment. He is expected to turn himself in on Wednesday.
"They have taken a guy that was one of the best law enforcement people ever known and reduced his life and his family's life to rubble," Green said yesterday.
City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle began an investigation in October 2003 following an internal complaint that included allegations of questionable purchase orders and inventory that was unaccounted for.
Carlisle turned the matter over to the Honolulu Police Department in November 2003 to decide if there was sufficient evidence and to refer it to the state Attorney General to avoid any suggestion of a conflict of interest.
Police recovered equipment in late December in the garage of Whang's Mililani Mauka home, including boxes of ammunition, guns, bulletproof vests and machinery to customize firearms that he had allegedly ordered through the Prosecutor's Office.
Some of the equipment recovered was not standard issue for staff investigators who have arrest powers and carry firearms. They included .45-caliber ammunition instead of the 9-mm ammunition issued to investigators, customized leather gun holsters and flashlights that can be attached to the barrels of rifles.
Whang had helped train other investigators to qualify for firearm use, and he allegedly told investigators he stored the equipment at home because there was no room at the Prosecutor's Office. Green had said Whang was not stealing or selling any ammunition.
The allegations contained in the indictment include theft exceeding $300 for the use of city money to purchase equipment from Del Fatti Leather in January 2003, tactical vests and lights from Tactical & Survival Specialties Inc. between April and May 2003, tactical lights from Botach Tactical in May 2003, an M6 laser/illuminator from Magnum Firearms & Range in August 2002 and reimbursement for the purchase of more than $100 of equipment from Ted Blocker Holsters Inc. between June and August 2001.
Green said the investigation was in retaliation for a complaint Whang made six months earlier about potential workplace violence involving his supervisor, Robert K.W. Lee.
Five days later, Whang was removed from his position to issue summonses and warrants; his home was searched; his mother, Jean Patterson, who also works as an executive assistant to Carlisle, was questioned by police; and his wife was investigated by the state criminal tax division, Green said.
"I've never seen anything as oppressive as this," Green said.
Whang later filed a lawsuit in May 2004 against his employer alleging misconduct and retaliation. Named as defendants were Carlisle, First Deputy Iwalani White and Lee.
Carlisle would not comment specifically on the indictment charges, emphasizing that he did not want to say anything that could affect the criminal case or subject the city to civil liability.
In the civil suit, Whang maintained that Lee had concerns about possible Occupational Safety and Health Administration and building violations by storing the ammunition at the Prosecutor's Office and directed him to store the equipment in his garage at home.
Whang said the department knew he brought ammunition from home to the firing range for training, and no one told him it was wrong or to stop.
Police Internal Affairs later concluded there were no "clear-cut criminal violations" and that it amounted to mostly internal procedural violations.