Cases for five men charged in child sex sting move to Circuit Court

A Hilo grand jury on Wednesday indicted three men who were arrested earlier this month in a sex sting operation dubbed “Operation Keiki Shield” by law enforcement.

The three are 31-year-old Marshall Baji of Naalehu and 36-year-old Joseph Michael Powell and 31-year-old Kanani Ikaika Perreira Yurong, both of Hilo.

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A 10-count indictment charges Baji with first-degree electronic enticement of a child, attempted promotion of pornography to a minor, first-degree attempted promotion of a minor-produced sexual image, methamphetamine possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, possessing a loaded firearm on a public roadway, illegally carrying ammunition, and firearms permit and registration offenses.

The charges of electronic enticement, possession of a loaded firearm and drug paraphernalia are Class B felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The attempted promotion of pornography and methamphetamine charges are Class C felonies.

According to a statement by county Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen, the firearm was a loaded 12-gauge shotgun.

A bench warrant issued with the indictment set Baji’s bail at $143,000. Baji, who previously was arrested but released on his own recognizance, was rearrested and is scheduled for arraignment and plea Monday in Kona Circuit Court, Waltjen said Friday.

A 13-count indictment charges Powell with first-degree electronic enticement of a child, attempted promotion of pornography to minors and 11 counts of attempted promotion of a minor-produced nude images.

A bench warrant issued with the indictment set Powell’s bail at $82,000, an increase to the $50,100 bail set for his case in Hilo District Court.

Powell remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center and will face arraignment and plea in Hilo Circuit Court.

Perreira Yurong’s indictment is for a single count of first-degree electronic indictment of a child.

A bench warrant maintained Perreira Yurong’s bail at $50,000, the same bail imposed in Hilo District Court.

Perreira Yurong posted bail and was released from HCCC. He’ll also face arraignment and plea in Hilo District Court.

The conditions stipulated on all three bench warrants include that the men not reside with minors and stay away from schools, playgrounds, theaters and other places where minors congregate.

Two others were also arrested and charged in connection with the multi-agency sting operation.

Sonny Eugenio Puerto, 28, of Kurtistown pleaded not guilty Thursday to a single count of first-degree enticement of a child after prosecutors filed a felony information complaint — which requires a judge’s approval — that moves his case from Hilo District Court to Hilo Circuit Court.

On Thursday, Hilo Circuit Judge Peter Kubota set a trial date of Oct. 4 for Puerto and decreased his $50,000 bail to $30,000 despite the objection of the prosecution. Court records indicate Puerto posted bail Friday.

Also on Friday, prosecutors filed a felony information complaint against 45-year-old Nolan Okalani Tallett of Honolulu. Tallett has been free on $50,000 bail posted shortly after he was charged May 6 with a single count of first-degree electronic enticement of a child.

The complaint moves Tallett’s case from Hilo District Court to Hilo Circuit Court for arraignment and plea.

“The filing of these charges puts predators on notice that Hawaii County law enforcement will not tolerate the exploitation and victimization of keiki in our community,” Waltjen said.

Probable cause documents filed in Hilo District Court regarding three of the men — Puerto, Powell and Perreira Yurong — allege they had conversations with law enforcement officers but thought the person on the other end of the conversation to be a 13-year-old minor. All three allegedly agreed to meet the minor to engage in sexual acts.

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According to documents, the men were arrested when they showed up in a parking lot owned by the county on Kalanianaole Avenue in Hilo.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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