Former Maui police officer pleads guilty to witness tampering

WAILUKU — A former Maui police officer has admitted to stealing hundreds of dollars in cash from a man during a 2015 traffic stop and then attempting to bribe the victim when he came forward.

Anthony Maldonado pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to charges of deprivation of rights under color of law and conspiracy to commit witness tampering, the Maui News reported .

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Maldonado, 29, was working as a patrol officer in Lahaina when he pulled over a car near Mala Wharf in September 2015. He took about $1,800 from the driver, who later reported the theft to the police department when he realized it was missing, according to court documents.

Maldonado with four others, including two police officers, hatched a plan to bribe the man to withdraw his complaint.

Former Maui officer Chase Keliipaakaua advised Maldonado to have someone else present the bribe so it wouldn’t be tied to Maldonado, according to court documents.

In October 2015, Damien Kaina went to the man’s house and offered about $2,000 for the man to take back his complaint, according to the documents. The man eventually took $1,800 from Kaina, and he then reported the incident to police the next day.

Maldonado was arrested that month. He later resigned from the department. He is scheduled to be sentenced in August.

“Everyone should be able to trust that an encounter with law enforcement will not result in theft,” U.S. Attorney Kenji Price said in a statement. “No one is above the law, least of all police officers who are charged with protecting our community.”

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Keliipaakaua, 31, pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to commit witness tampering. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July.

Kaina and former Maui Police Sgt. Walter Ahuna both pleaded guilty to witness tampering. They are awaiting sentencing.

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