Wednesday, June 30, 1999

State lets Bishop
trustee Wong and
wife off the
hook for now

The Wongs had sued the
state Monday to halt
grand jury proceedings

By Rick Daysog


In an abrupt reversal, state prosecutors have called off grand jury proceedings targeting Bishop Estate trustee Richard "Dickie" Wong and his wife.

Deputy Attorney General Lawrence Goya told Circuit Judge Michael Town in a confidential letter yesterday that the state does not plan to go forward with the grand jury investigation of the Wongs at this time, sources said.

Goya added that the state is reviewing its options. Some lawyers think the state has not dropped their criminal investigation of the Wongs.

The attorney general's office had subpoenaed trustee Wong and his wife, Mari Wong, to appear before an Oahu grand jury yesterday, prompting the Wongs to sue the state in federal court on Monday to halt the proceedings.

Yesterday, trustee Wong's attorney Eric Seitz said he believes that the state is rethinking its efforts to seek a new indictment of the Wongs. Seitz on Monday sued the attorney general's office in federal court to halt the grand jury proceedings. He has since put that suit on hold after yesterday's development.

"I've considered them to have backed off," Seitz said.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office could not be reached for immediate comment.

A separate grand jury indicted trustee Wong for theft and Mari Wong for hindering prosecution relating to their alleged roles in a scheme involving Bishop Estate land in Hawaii Kai.

The indictment said Wong's brother-in-law, local developer Jeffrey Stone, and his mainland partner received favorable treatment when they acquired the fee interest under the 219-acre Kalele Kai condominium project. In return, trustee Wong received $115,000 from Stone when the developer indirectly acquired the Wongs' Makiki condo for an inflated price, the indictment said.

Wong, who was temporarily removed as a $1 million-a-year trustee by Probate Judge Kevin Chang earlier this month, has pleaded not guilty, saying he recused himself from all talks involving Kalele Kai. Stone also has denied wrongdoing, saying the estate benefited tremendously from the transaction.

Judge Town earlier this month threw out the previous grand jury indictments against Wong, his wife and Stone due to tainted testimony from Stone's former lawyer Richard Frunzi, who is now serving a federal prison sentence for money laundering.

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