Wednesday, February 17, 1999

Two Ewa
defendants indicted
in similar case

The latest indictments
involve relocation fraud
on Middle Street

By Debra Barayuga


Two men indicted in the Ewa Villages relocation scheme were among three people indicted yesterday in a similar scheme in which businesses on Middle Street were relocated to make way for the TheBus headquarters in the early 1990s.

Indictments are also expected within a month in the relocation of horse ranches and farms at West Loch to clear the way for the city to develop West Loch Estates, city prosecutors said.

An Oahu grand jury yesterday indicted Michael Kahapea, fired city housing official; Claude Hebaru, owner of Titan Moving and Hauling; and Keith Ringler, an acquaintance of Kahapea's and part-time Hawaii resident, on 23 criminal counts, including first- and second-degree theft, forgery, racketeering, money laundering and bribery.

The indictments stemmed from the city's inquiry into the Ewa Villages revitalization project in which the city was billed thousands of dollars for moving costs that were inflated or work that was never done.

"These people defrauded the public and went in from project to project and kept on doing it," Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee said yesterday.

Kahapea, former Property Division chief for the city Housing Department who was indicted last May on 47 counts in the Ewa Villages scheme, was also in charge of relocating two businesses from the Middle Street site.

In that project, the city spent $950,000 to move Hawaii Meat Co. and Consumer Auto and Tire Service Center.

But 75 percent of the cost -- or $657,000 -- did not go toward work done but was funneled to RC Movers, a fictitious moving company created at Kahapea's request to funnel money to himself and three others, including Hebaru, Lee said.

RC Movers allegedly inflated the cost of the move and produced false billings. Hebaru's moving company is accused of submitting false claims and pocketing $240,000. Ringler allegedly created a bogus company -- Reliable Trucking -- and was paid $45,000 to move Consumer Tire, but never did the work. Instead, Island Movers ended up doing the job for $2,500.

In all, more than 20 people have been arrested in connection with the Ewa Villages, Middle street and West Loch projects, including Norman Tam, who is fighting his termination as the city's former fair housing officer. He and Kahapea were fired following their arrests last year.

Plea agreements are being worked out for at least six people linked to the Middle Street or Ewa Villages projects, and seven will go to trial July 12, Lee said.

Donald Hall Sr., owner of A-1 Trucking and Equipment, pleaded guilty last year to charges of theft, forgery and money laundering in the Ewa Villages scheme and has agreed to provide evidence against other parties.

Ringler and Kahapea also are being investigated in the West Loch project. Hebaru is also being investigated for allegedly submitting bids to secure jobs for his moving company or to fraudulent companies, Lee said.

Circuit Judge Frances Wong yesterday approved high bail for all three defendants: $190,000 for Kahapea; $70,000 for Hebaru, and $55,000 for Ringler.

Ringler, a part-time Colorado resident, is here undergoing treatment for a heart condition.

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