Saturday, October 6, 2001

Akana punished for
West Loch scam

By Debra Barayuga

A 55-year-old man who ran a towing business and junkyard at West Loch was sentenced to five years' probation for overcharging the city $56,100 in moving costs.

Circuit Judge Richard Perkins ordered Harry Akana to perform 250 hours of community service, saying it would serve the state better than putting him in prison. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $56,100.

Akana apologized to the state yesterday for his part in a fraud run by former housing official Michael Kahapea which ended up costing taxpayers nearly $6 million. Kahapea oversaw three city revitalization projects -- Ewa Villages, West Loch and Middle Street -- and was in charge of relocating tenants and awarding contracts to movers.

Akana was told by Kahapea to move and did so twice, first to a location on Middle Street, then to Pearl City Industrial Park.

As in the Ewa Villages scam, Akana and two other defendants were accused of billing the city for inflated or bogus moving costs and kicking back a portion to Kahapea. The city paid a total $571,031 to move tenants from West Loch to clear the way for development of West Loch Estates. Akana pleaded guilty in July to first-degree theft and money laundering.

Deputy Prosecutor Craig Hirai had requested that Akana -- who was paroled from a previous conviction that occurred after the West Loch offenses -- spend 60 days in prison because the fraud occurred over a long period, involved a large sum of money and violated the taxpayers' trust.

Deputy Public Defender Walter Rodby argued against incarceration, saying that although Akana received benefits he was not entitled to, he has taken responsibility by pleading guilty.

Akana has worked his entire life and had a successful towing and junkyard business but fell victim to Kahapea, Rodby said.

"Michael Kahapea made promises to him that were not kept and not followed through."

Akana eventually lost his business, partly because he suffered a permanent injury to his back and from arthritis.

Co-defendant Clayton Haumea, who pleaded no contest more than a year ago, also received five years' probation and was ordered to pay $20,651. Co-defendant Keith Ringler died before going to trial.

Kahapea pleaded no contest to charges in connection with West Loch and was ordered to pay restitution of $571,031.

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