Thursday, December 2, 1999

Perfect Title Co.
co-founder guilty
of theft

David Sai tried to help a
couple reclaim a home lost
through foreclosure

By Rob Perez


The co-founder of a now-defunct title company that challenged the validity of land titles in Hawaii faces up to 10 years in prison after being convicted of an attempted theft charge.

A Circuit Court jury yesterday found David Keanu Sai guilty of first-degree attempted theft for helping a couple try to reclaim an Aiea home they lost through foreclosure.

The couple, Michael and Carol Simafranca, also was found guilty of the attempted-theft charge, as well as first-degree burglary for illegally entering the residence.

The latter charge also carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Sentencing is set for March 7.

The Simafrancas in early 1997 entered the home while the owners were away.

The couple had lost the residence through foreclosure in 1996 but subsequently tried to reclaim ownership based on a warranty deed issued by Sai, a founder of Perfect Title Co.

Sai previously has said he issued the deed in his capacity as regent of the Hawaiian kingdom and based on Perfect Title research.

The company used 19th century kingdom law to determine that existing land titles in Hawaii were invalid.

Earlier in the trial, Circuit Judge Sandra Simms acquitted Donald Lewis, who was president and co-founder of Perfect Title, of the attempted-theft charge.

Sai and the Simafrancas declined comment after the jury's unanimous verdict was announced. Their attorneys said they planned to appeal.

Deputy Attorney General Dwight Nadamoto, who handled the case for the state, said he was pleased with the verdict.

But Lewis said the decision was improper. He said the state made a criminal case out of what basically was a civil dispute over land titles.

"I feel bad," he said. "These people are not criminals. They're good people."

Lewis and other supporters said they hoped the case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court so the issue of whether kingdom law applies in Hawaii can be resolved.

While at Perfect Title, Lewis and Sai maintained that Hawaii is still a sovereign nation because sovereignty never was transferred to the United States via a treaty -- the only way such a transfer legally could be done, they said.

But critics said such reasoning was absurd, citing, among other things, the annexation of the islands by the federal government in 1898.

Perfect Title shut down in late 1997 after the state seized its records as part of an investigation. Lewis still faces charges of failing to obtain a state license to do business in Hawaii and failing to file a general excise tax return.

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