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Saturday, May 20, 2000

32 named in
gambling, money-
laundering sting

For advance warnings of
HPD raids, a 'corrupt'
officer collects $311,731

By Rod Ohira


Earl Koanui spent the past two years and eight months of his life pretending to be something he's not: a crooked cop.

The 36-year-old Koanui, a Narcotics/Vice Division officer for 13 of his 17-1/2 years with the Honolulu Police Department, was a key player in a three-year operation that led to the indictment of 32 people on federal gambling and money-laundering charges.

In his role as a corrupt police officer, Koanui accepted 233 bribery payments totaling $311,731 from August 1997 through May of this year. The payments were for advance warnings of HPD gambling raids.

Earl Koanui
Pretending he was crooked
was difficult and dangerous.

"The undercover police officer who worked on this case is a real hero," said Steven Alm, U.S. attorney for Hawaii. "He did a tough, dangerous job for a long time and did it well."

The money-laundering charge related to bribe payments is the hammer in this case because it carries a maximum prison term of 20 years as compared to five years maximum for the gambling offenses. There is no parole in the federal system.

Koanui, a Kamehameha Schools graduate, said pretending he was crooked was a difficult assignment since very few people knew what he was doing.

"It was hard on my family," Koanui said. "It's not easy walking around with people thinking you are something you're not."

He does not want to be singled out as a hero.

"I did my job, that's all," said Koanui, who was also involved in the bust of an estimated $50,000-per-night casino-style card-and-dice operation at 2944 Waialae Ave. in March 1994.

In March 1987, Koanui was wounded in the shoulder by a shotgun blast while in pursuit of three suspects who robbed a Kalihi dice game.

'Opportunity and timing'

Police Chief Lee Donohue said "opportunity and timing" were factors in picking Koanui for the assignment.

During the period Koanui was working undercover, police and the FBI received numerous complaints about a crooked cop.

"We got a call from a state judge, anonymous calls and letters from the community," said Robert Kauffman, the FBI's supervisor of organized crime investigations in Hawaii, who was aware of what Koanui was doing.

Koanui began accepting bribes in August 1997 from a group allegedly operating cockfighting, card, dice and other gambling activities in Ewa and on Hakimo Road in Nanakuli.

The indictment alleges that Randolph Mousser, 47, who provided "protection" for illegal gambling activities; James Mousser, 48; Ernesto DeLeon, 50; Frankie Amano, 51; Gustancia Roach, 66; Constancio Guerrero, 61; Shane Soares, 31; and Oliver Kupau, 43, made 83 cash payments from Aug. 28, 1997, to April 29, 2000, to Koanui, who collected a total of $118,511.

Also, Randolph Mousser and Marirose Tangi, who operated a Chinatown gambling operation on Kekaulike Street, gave Koanui $48,200 over 27 payments from November 1998 through last month, according to the court document.

Thirteen still not in custody

A separate indictment charges Gabriel Aio, 54; Steve Crouch, 46; Hung Chi Ho, 39; and Huy "Sherman" Loi, 30, with money laundering and operating a gambling business featuring cards and video machines on the second floor of a building at 1152 Maunakea St.

It's charged that Aio and Crouch provided "protection" for the gambling business, which was owned by Ho, also known as "Small David," and managed by Loi.

The group also temporarily conducted a gambling business at 115 N. Hotel St., says the indictment.

The same indictment charges Kim Le "Kimi" Richardson, 46, the owner of the building, and Den Van Nguyen, 38, who allegedly ran a gambling business in the basement at the same location, with gambling and money laundering.

The downtown group allegedly made 77 payments totaling $86,920 to Koanui between Sept. 5, 1999, and May 10, 2000.

Thirteen others were indicted for gambling offenses related to the downtown operations.

A third indictment charges Douglas Westbrook, 36; Yunguang "Afong" Zhang, 38; and state prison guard Walter Salas, 44, with money laundering and operating illegal card games and video gambling machines in Pearl City and on Sheridan Street in Pawaa, and also cockfighting and card games at Ulehawa Road in Waianae.

The group allegedly made 33 payments totaling $46,800 to Koanui from Sept. 2, 1998, to May 8, 2000.

The fourth indictment alleges that Mai Huynh, 48, conducted illegal gambling activities involving card games and video machines at 72 N. Hotel St. and that Koanui received $11,300 in 13 payments from her from Oct. 22, 1998, to March 14, 2000.

Kauffman, who is leaving Hawaii for a new post with the bureau, declined to give a specific figure but said, "A house can win $100,000 in one day and lose $100,000 on another day."

Of those indicted, 13 were still not in custody as of yesterday, including Loi, Ho, James Mousser, Amano, Roach, Kupau, Tangi, Zhang and Huynh.

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