Thursday, July 26, 2001

Feds indict 5 in
fire-for-hire ploy

They allegedly burned trucks
and toilets for clients who
wanted to eliminate competition

By Debra Barayuga

A federal grand jury has indicted five men for conspiring to set fire to commercial trucks owned by truck rental companies on Oahu between 1996 and 1999.

Three of the defendants also are alleged to have torched about 56 portable toilets in February 1999 that belonged to a competitor of one of the men indicted, George Grace III, who owns Paradise Lua.

The indictment was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court against Grace, Paradise Lua employee Keoki Medeiros, Joseph Mangca, William "Bulla" Nelson and Scott Silva.

The indictment charges the defendants and unindicted co-conspirators with the theft and destruction of trucks ranging from $45,000 GMC vans to a $130,000 Kenworth truck.

According to the indictment, Grace told an unindicted co-conspirator that they were to receive money for ensuring that trucks located at the Penske Rental Truck yard in Honolulu and other companies were torched.

The torchings were allegedly "to assist an individual in the truck rental business."

The indictment said the men were to receive $1,000 per burned truck but does not say who was to pay them.

Grace's attorney, Eric Seitz, and the defendants could not be reached for comment.

The indictment says the defendants stole the Kenworth truck from Cutter Trucking Center in Aiea sometime before August 1996 and later stole a GMC truck from Direct Support Resources Inc. at Sand Island.

"Shortly after the theft, the defendants came to fear that they would be implicated by law enforcement, and they conspired to destroy the Kenworth truck and the evidence of their criminal activity by burning parts of that vehicle and the GMC truck," the indictment said.

The Kenworth truck was brought to Grace's Waianae property on Iliili Road on Aug. 1, 1996, where it was dismantled by Grace and two other conspirators, according to the indictment.

One of the conspirators took the cab, hood, rims and tires to his workplace at Sand Island.

On Aug. 6, 1996, Grace, Mangca and two co-conspirators loaded the stolen Kenworth parts onto the stolen GMC truck, and the truck was driven to a cane field in Kunia. Gasoline was poured over the Kenworth parts and the stolen GMC and both set afire, the indictment said.

Grace and Mangca are charged as abettors in the destruction of the Kenworth and GMC trucks.

Grace is also accused of helping Nelson and a co-conspirator set fire to trucks at Penske Truck Leasing Co., at Puuhale Road and North Nimitz Highway, on two occasions in January 1999.

The indictment says Grace allegedly gave Nelson two 5-gallon plastic cans to carry gasoline.

Grace, Mangca and Nelson are charged with conspiring to destroy portable toilets owned by a competitor "for the purpose of giving defendant Grace a commercial advantage in the toilet rental business," the indictment alleges.

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