Hawaii County prosecutor seeks outside review of evidence theft case

  • Mitch Roth. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — The Hawaii County Prosecutor’s Office will not handle a case involving a Hawaii police officer as a person of interest in a missing drug evidence investigation within the department.

The decision to forward the case to another other prosecutor’s office was made Tuesday. The Hawaii Police Department forwarded the case to prosecutors on March 2 for review of possible charges. After reviewing the pages-long investigation, Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth said conflicts were identified.

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“We’re referring it to avoid even the appearance of impropriety or conflicts,” Roth said.

The state Department of the Attorney General will determine which county will prosecute the case. Once that decision is made, Roth said his office will mail the report to that prosecuting agency.

The county prosecutor said this procedure is not uncommon.

Last week, the police department released information that a former Hawaii county police officer was a person of interest after drugs were found missing from evidence. The initial investigation began in October 2017. According to authorities, cocaine recovered as evidence in 2014 was found to be lighter than reported during its initial recovery.

According to a police press release, it states the discrepancy was discovered when the evidence was being weighed in preparation to utilize a small quantity of the drug for training purposes.

At the time of the investigation, the release indicates, the officer was immediately placed on administrative leave without pay. Audits of other evidence recovered by the officer revealed “other anomalies, which revealed cases whereby there was a weight discrepancy in marijuana concentrate, (hashish), from two separate investigations.”

The officer has since retired from the department. Roth said he believed the individual retired this year; however, it could have been at the end of 2017. Roth didn’t know if the former employee was receiving retirement benefits.

In an interview on Hawaii Public Radio, Police Chief Paul K. Ferreira said the officer held the rank of detective. The former officer’s years of service were not disclosed. The officer’s identity was also not released, nor was the amount of drugs missing.

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Ferreira has declined to make further statements regarding the investigation.

“As stated in the media release this is still an open investigation, therefore, no additional comments will be made by me or my staff,” Ferreira stated in an email Thursday afternoon.