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Couple found guilty
HILO » In 2000, Hilo resident Hong Chow Chock, then 86, was recently widowed and realized that he wasn't able to take care of himself. So he put an ad in the local paper seeking a caregiver.
The couple who answered the ad eventually spent $60,000 of his money and tricked him into signing over his Hilo home and a rural house lot to them.
On Monday, a Hilo jury convicted the couple, Laura and Abraham Kauwe, of multiple offenses stemming from the deception, the state Attorney General's Office announced yesterday.
The two face more than 20 years in prison when they are sentenced Nov. 1.
A lawsuit to regain the house and country property is pending.
"This case should send a strong message to those who exploit the elderly and infirm for financial gain," Attorney General Mark Bennett said.
The jury deliberated for two days before finding Laura Kauwe guilty of three counts of theft in the first degree. County tax records show her name on the properties formerly belonging to Chock.
Abraham Kauwe was found guilty of two counts of theft in the first degree.
Each count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $25,000. The judge may find circumstances that merit "enhancing" or lengthening each sentence.
When Laura Kauwe answered Chock's ad, she persuaded him to let her, her husband and their son move in rent-free to Chock's house in the Waiakea Houselots area of Hilo. She told Chock that Abraham Kauwe was her brother.
Within two months, she manipulated Chock into signing her on as a co-owner of his savings and checking accounts, an attorney general statement said.
Eventually, Laura Kauwe tried to gain control of Chock's entire estate with the assistance of attorney Peter Kubota.
Instead, Kubota told her she was stealing from Chock. He became a key witness against the Kauwes in the criminal trial, said Deputy Attorney General Michael Parrish, who assisted the lead attorney, Deputy Attorney General Gary Senaga.
Chock, now 91 and described as in reasonably good health, moved into a care home. A relative regained control of his house while the lawsuit is pending, and a distant relative is now living there.