Friday, May 14, 1999

Attorney says
client’s ally set
trucks on fire

By Lori Tighe


Joseph "Joe-Boy" Tavares Jr., charged for allegedly setting afire trucks worth $240,000, is being framed by his former ally in a takeover to be "top dog" in Hawaii's movie and TV production, says his lawyer, Richard Hoke.

Trial opened yesterday in federal court for Tavares, 43, of Waimanalo on two counts of arson, conspiracy to commit arson, several counts of extortion and robbery.

The entire case gave Hawaii a black eye in the movie and TV industry, making officials leery of dealing with the state's production Teamsters, according to the state's film office.

Movie production trucks were set on fire in Kalihi and Waipahu in 1991, closing two movie production businesses -- Mokulua and Auto Mastics. The companies were competitors of Tavares, a transportation coordinator and Teamsters member.

"Tavares was motivated by lust for power to control the movie and TV production business in Hawaii," argued Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Silverberg in his opening statement.

Silverberg will present 20 to 30 witnesses. Among the leading witnesses will be George Cambra, Hawaii's leader in movie equipment.

Cambra already has testified in his own case in April that he gave a mixture of gasoline and diesel fuel to Tavares to burn his competitors' trucks in Kalihi and Waipahu in 1991.

Cambra pleaded guilty to conspiring with Tavares to commit arson. In the plea agreement, the U.S. attorney's office dropped narcotics and firearm charges against him. Cambra's sentencing is scheduled for October and he will most likely receive probation, said Hoke.

But Cambra and not Tavares set the trucks on fire to burn Cambra's competition in 1991, Hoke said. Cambra has everything to gain by testifying against Tavares, he said.

"This is a case of blind ambition and greed," but not by Tavares, Hoke told the jury before U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor. "The last thing my client wanted was to destroy equipment. His livelihood is to put men in jobs."

The government alleges Tavares and Cambra, president of Cambra Movie Production Trucks Inc., formed an alliance, while Mokulua Consultants and Auto Mastics became their rivals.

California producers of a television show called "The Raven" hired Mokulua Consultants and Auto Mastics to provide trucks for filming in Hawaii.

The fires forced Auto Mastics out of business and contributed to Mokulua's 1997 closing, Silverberg said.

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