HILO — A 27-year-old Hilo man who police say was part of a ring responsible for a rash of auto thefts in late 2016 and early 2017 was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison.
Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura also ordered Kahee Ioane Manuwai to serve a minimum of three years and four months before he is eligible for parole during the Feb. 14 hearing. In a deal with prosecutors, Manuwai pleaded no contest on Dec. 4 to two counts of first-degree theft, three counts of driving a stolen vehicle, plus single counts of second-degree theft, habitual property crime and first-degree resisting an order to stop.
Manuwai admitted to stealing two new Subaru sport sedans — at least one of which was used for illegal street racing — and a 2012 Chrysler 300 off dealership lots in Hilo and Kona.
Deputy Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen and court-appointed defense counsel Martin Bento asked the judge to follow the plea agreement.
Waltjen told Nakamura the “offenses occurred while the defendant was on felony probation” and said “a prison term is appropriate to insure the safety of the public.”
“The defendants actions are more akin to a character from the movie ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ than supposedly a young father with a substance abuse problem, although the defendant may argue the latter,” Waltjen said. “What we have here is a young man who has no respect for the law, no respect for authority, no respect for others in our community.”
Bento said his client “is taking responsibility,” agreed to a prison term and thousands of dollars in restitution.
“He is determined to get out and have a productive life. He does want to have a life with his son,” Bento said. “… After his mother died, things kind of unraveled for him and he wasn’t in the right state of mind.”
When asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Manuwai declined.
Manuwai was reputedly part of the “300 Club” — described as a loose confederation whose goal was to steal 300 motor vehicles in 2017. Police assigned its Special Enforcement Unit to auto theft detail, resulting in several arrests and dramatic declines in pilfered vehicles.
Another alleged member of the ring, 19-year-old Kahekili Krause of Mountain View, is back in custody, less than three weeks after his release on four years felony probation and time served in jail.
Charged with driving a stolen vehicle, third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, possession of drug paraphernalia, second-degree unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, second-degree criminal trespass and two counts of habitual property crimes, Krause is scheduled to appear Feb. 28 in Hilo District Court.
Krause remains in Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $52,000 bail.