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Friday, June 9, 2000

Hauler admits
he abetted Ewa
moving scam

David 'Brian' Kaahaaina says
he split city payments with
Michael Kahapea

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


A co-defendant in the Ewa Villages scam trial testified today that he received between $700,000 and $800,000 in "bumped up" payments from the city and then returned half of that money to fired housing official Michael Kahapea.

Kahapea is charged with stealing about $5.6 million in taxpayer money from a fund set up to relocate commercial tenants from the Ewa Villages redevelopment project.

Prosecutors say David "Brian" Kaahaaina's company, American Hauling, was one of several companies that helped Kahapea steal from the city by charging for work either not done or done at inflated prices.

Prosecutors say Kaahaaina was paid $355,000 to move both his own company and Oahu Sugar Co. from Ewa Villages. But American Hauling remains in Ewa Villages, and Oahu Sugar employees earlier testified that the sugar plantation moved itself.

Kaahaaina, 33, also testified that he:

Bullet Gave Kahapea $100,000 in cash over a two-year period for so-called investments from which he has never received a cent back.

Bullet Gave Kahapea sheets of paper with only his company's letterhead and his signature which the prosecution says were used to give forged bids.

Kaahaaina said he was a tenant in Ewa Villages when Kahapea first approached him in 1993 about doing cleanup work, but not relocation, on former Oahu Sugar Co. property and other sites in the area.

Under questioning from Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee, Kaahaaina said he was instructed by Kahapea to falsely put on his payment claim sheets that he was packing and relocating companies, not performing cleanup work.

Kaahaaina said he never questioned Kahapea.

"I just thought that since we were doing the job, getting the place cleaned up and so forth, it didn't really dawn on me on how to go and word (the claims) a certain way for the city and county to pay," he said.

Kaahaaina said that he trusted Kahapea. "I guess at the time I was young," he said. "That's no excuse, but I didn't think they would put somebody in a city and county office that they couldn't trust." After about the third or fourth move, Kaahaaina said, Kahapea asked him to "bump up" his bid amounts.

Kaahaaina said he knew what he did was wrong but did as Kahapea instructed because he believed his company would be allowed to stay in Ewa Villages, where the rent was cheap.

Kaahaaina added that the work Kahapea was offering allowed his company to stay viable.

"We were just making ends meet already while we were there," he said. "We hardly had any money in the accounts until the city and county jobs came up."

Kaahaaina said he invested in two Las Vegas ventures proffered by Kahapea -- Wailani Water Corp. and High Step Mining Co. -- because he was promised high returns.

But while he made three trips to Las Vegas at Kahapea's expense, he said, he has yet to see any of his money returned.

Kaahaaina has pleaded no contest to second-degree theft and money laundering. He will be sentenced in December. Prosecutors agreed to drop several charges in exchange for his cooperation, but he was not asked to testify.

Kahapea's attorney argues that much of the money from the relocation account was used improperly to rehabilitate homes and clean dump sites and that Mayor Jeremy Harris and other supervisors knew about the diversion of funds.

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