In Brief | Big Island & State | 1-10-14

Pahoa structure fire extinguished, under investigation


Pahoa structure fire extinguished, under investigation

Fire officials are investigating the cause of a Thursday morning structure fire in Pahoa.

Responding to the 2:38 a.m. report, Hawaii County Fire Department personnel arrived at the three bedroom, two bathroom single-story home on Nehu Street to find one of the bedrooms engulfed in flames. Sixteen firefighters fought the fire, which was extinguished at 3:10 a.m.

Fire officials estimated damage to the 1,300-square-foot home at $70,000. No injuries were reported.

South Kona man facing charges in truck theft

A Captain Cook man is facing charges in connection with the alleged theft of a pickup truck in Captain Cook.

Joshua Watan, 32, was charged Thursday with unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, theft, meth trafficking, promoting a dangerous drug, drug paraphernalia, five firearm offenses, four counts of violating release on bail and first-degree terroristic threatening for making a threat to a law enforcement officer while in custody, according to the Hawaii County Police Department. His bail was set at $184,000 and he remains at the Kona police cellblock.

On Oct. 21, police responded to a report of a 2011 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck allegedly stolen while parked along Mamalahoa Highway in Captain Cook. Investigation led to the recovery of the truck from a parking lot in Kealakekua on Jan. 3.

A search warrant was subsequently executed on the truck where police reportedly located 8 grams of crystal methamphetamine, a glass pipe with residue and a loaded handgun, according to police. Further investigation led to the identity of the person who had control of the truck. Watan was arrested Tuesday and held at the Kona police cellblock during the investigation.

Men facing kidnapping, robbery charges

Two men are facing kidnapping and robbery charges stemming from a reported robbery Dec. 23 in Kona.

On Dec. 23, a 22-year-old Kailua-Kona man reported that at 3:45 p.m., a 31-year-old male acquaintance and a second unidentified man approached him on Royal Poinciana Drive near Alii Drive and asked him for drugs and cash, according to the Hawaii County Police Department. When he refused, the men reportedly assaulted him, forced him into a sport utility vehicle, stole personal items and held him at knife point while driving around Kailua-Kona for more than an hour and demanding money.

The 22-year-old persuaded his assailants to drive him to the home of a family member so he could get cash. Once there, he went inside, according to police. After a family member confronted the suspects and said police had been called, the suspects drove away.

On Jan. 1, Kona patrol officers located the SUV, which was damaged and abandoned on Hina Lani Street in Kailua-Kona. Further investigation by Area II Criminal Investigations Section detectives confirmed the identities of both suspects.

On Monday, police arrested Jack Toribio Casuga, 31, of Kailua-Kona and took him to the Kona police cellblock while detectives continued the investigation.

Casuga was charged Wednesday with kidnapping, first-degree robbery, first-degree terroristic threatening and fourth-degree theft. He was also charged with violating parole in an unrelated incident and with first-degree burglary and second-degree attempted robbery in connection with another unrelated incident Dec. 19 at a home on Alii Drive, according to police. His bail was set at $146,000.

On Thursday, William Holbron-Kealoha, 29, of Kailua-Kona was arrested and charged with kidnapping, first-degree robbery, first-degree terroristic threatening and an unrelated count of failure to appear, according to police. His bail was set at $110,100.

Marines to convoy Saturday, Sunday

Oahu-based Marines will convoy from Keaukaha Military Reserve in Hilo to Pohakuloa Training Area from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday.

The convoy will travel via Hilo Airport Road, Kanoelehua Avenue, West Puainako Street, Komohana Avenue, Puainako Extension and Saddle Road.

Between 10 a.m. and noon Sunday, the unit will travel from PTA to KMR. The convoy will travel via Saddle Road, Puainako Extension, Komohana Avenue, West Puainako Street, Kanoelehua Avenue and Hilo Airport Road.

The convoy will have Hawaii Police Department escorts. Motorists are advised to be alert and drive with care.

Search for overboard crew member suspended

HONOLULU — The U.S. Coast Guard said it has suspended a search for a crew member who went overboard from a cruise ship off Hawaii.

The Coast Guard said more than 4,900 square miles were covered in the search for the 34-year-old Filipino national working aboard the Grand Princess. The search was suspended Wednesday.

The crew member was last seen Monday night. A Princess Cruises spokeswoman said earlier this week that surveillance footage shows the man intentionally jumping overboard.

The cruise ship was en route to the Big Island on a 15-day trip after departing from San Francisco on Saturday. About 1,000 crew members and 3,000 passengers are on board.

The missing crew member was reported overboard about 1,100 miles northeast of Hilo. The cruise ship and other vessels helped with the search.

Destructive beetles found at Pearl Harbor

HONOLULU — Another invasive pest has been found on Oahu.

The state Department of Agriculture said Thursday destructive beetles that damage coconut trees and other palm plants were found at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam last month. Samples were sent to a federal lab in Miami, where it was confirmed to be the coconut rhinoceros beetle.

State officials have been working with the military and the University of Hawaii to trap the beetles.

It’s not known how the beetles arrived. Predators of the beetle include pigs, rats and ants. A fungus and a virus that can kill the beetles are not known to occur in Hawaii.

The Dec. 23 discovery of the beetle was made the same day officials found an invasive ant species on Maui.

Governor says revised growth rate OK for budget

HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said revised projections showing slower tax growth than originally anticipated are OK for his budget plans for the next fiscal year.

Abercrombie said Wednesday that a supplemental budget submitted to the Legislature can accommodate revenue fluctuations and even slight declines. He said the plan still furthers his administration’s initiatives for boosting public services and reserves while planning for long-term liabilities.

The state Council on Revenues revised its forecast for fiscal 2014, saying tax revenue would grow at 3.3 percent instead of 4.1 percent.

State Finance Director Kalbert Young said 3.3 percent is still optimistic growth for the state. He says it’s enough to carry out the administration’s six-year plan.

3 suspects indicted in Hawaii mortgage debt scheme

HONOLULU — Federal prosecutors in Honolulu say three people have been indicted in a real estate scheme that resulted in $3.3 million in property sales based on fake claims of paying off more than $4.5 million in mortgage debt.

U.S Attorney Florence Nakakuni in Hawaii said Wednesday that the scheme involved filing false forms with the state Bureau of Conveyances indicating that the mortgages had been paid.

FBI spokesman Tom Simon said suspects Jennifer McTigue, 46, and Sakara Blackwell, 38, were arrested at their separate homes in Honolulu on Wednesday. Simon said a third suspect, Marc Melton, 43, was arrested in Sacramento, Calif.

McTigue and Blackwell appeared at an arraignment in Honolulu on Wednesday.

Nakakuni said charges include wire fraud and money laundering.

Judge’s ruling a setback for Hawaii meth ring case

HONOLULU — A judge dealt federal prosecutors in a Hawaii meth ring trial a setback by ruling that the government was “sloppy” and “tardy” in providing discovery materials to the defense.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi ruled that she won’t dismiss the case against the six men who are on trial but will allow certain witnesses to be recalled. The jury will be told it’s because of government misconduct.

The judge is also referring Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Loo to the Department of Justice’s office of professional responsibility.

The trial resumes Thursday. An 18-count indictment alleges the men were part of a conspiracy involving hundreds of pounds of crystal meth.

Defense attorneys sought dismissal because prosecutors didn’t provide discovery material for cooperating witnesses until after some of them testified.

Alumnus leads Hawaii medical school department

HONOLULU — The University of Hawaii’s medical school has chosen a leader for its psychiatry department.

The university said Wednesday that Anthony Paul Sison Guerrero is the first psychiatry chair of Filipino ancestry at a U.S. medical school.

He’s been serving as interim chairman since July 2012. He’s also director of the children and adolescent psychiatry division and residency training program.

In 2003, he founded the Kapiolani Behavioral Health Service, based at the Kapiolani Medical Center.

He became the psychiatry department’s executive associate chair in 2011.


The university also said he’s one of the youngest graduates ever to complete medical school at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

By local and wire sources