HONOLULU (KHON2) — He was persecuted for years as a central figure in the Kealoha criminal conspiracy and now has won a settlement with the city for what he and his deceased mother went through. Always Investigating talked one-on-one with Gerard Puana, Katherine Kealoha’s uncle.
Puana told KHON2 that it is about justice not about the money but said everyone should heed what he went through as a red flag about public corruption.
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The Kealohas and their accomplices were held to account in federal court in a conspiracy that involved a family financial dispute and a frame-job over a stolen mailbox. Meanwhile a civil suit dragged on for years — alongside the criminal case that put the Kealohas behind bars — alleging civil rights violations and abuse of power when Louis Kealoha was chief at Honolulu Police Department.
“I don’t feel safe with HPD because of the [then-] chief and what I’ve been going through. I was being followed every day. I was threatened,” Puana recalls.
Just this week, a settlement was reached in which the city will pay Puana, and the estate of his deceased mother Florence Puana, $2.85 million.
Always Investigating asked Puana how the settlement made him feel.
“It made me feel fantastic,” he said. “I was elated, and mom of course, she was all about justice. It wasn’t about the financial part of it. To mother and I, it was always about justice’ and they’re in federal prison. So job done. Check, please.”
We spoke near the courthouse where Katherine had Puana transferred and detained for questioning by her after she engineered an arrest in Puana’s parking dispute with neighbors. From there, he said Katherine forced him into a treatment center; incarceration followed.
“We’re all bussed here, and I just stayed here,” Puana recalled. “[A sheriff] took me up or down in the elevator to a boardroom, and that’s where I met her.”
“How unconventional is that here? Is that protocol?” Always Investigating asked.
“That’s not protocol, absolutely not,” Puana said. “But what is, that the Kealohas did, right?”
Florence Puana, Katherine’s grandmother, passed away at the age of 100 within a year of the Kealohas’ conviction.
“I lost my mother. That’s the thing. She was my everything,” Puana said. “She was the youngest of nine kids. She was my everything.”
The settlement cannot give everything back, he acknowledges.
“No, no, not at all. But, it was never about financially. It was not that,” Puana said. “It was about justice. Mom and I were adamant about that. She lost his $3.7 million house on Wilhelmina Rise because Katherine put hers in reverse mortgage.”
Puana said he still believes in the system that ultimately exposed the Kealohas and brought criminal and now civil consequences to bear and thinks the police department has cleaned up.
“I got to say, the HPD has done a stellar job,” Puana said. “You know, we have Honolulu’s finest; it is Honolulu’s finest to come back from that.”
During the investigation of the Kealohas, their only televised interview was with Always Investigating on KHON2. Puana said their behavior is a red flag for all to be on the lookout for public corruption.
“I’m really glad that you did that interview with the creepy dolls in the background,” Puana said, “because we have it on recording. That’s how good liars work. They are narcissistic, pathological liars, you know. So, good job. Very good job.”
Puana just recently got the first restitution payments from the Kealohas ordered by the court years ago.
KHON2 asked: “Have the Kealohas ever sincerely apologized to you?”
“Just in court that day when they were sentenced. I wouldn’t look at Katherine,” he said. “And, I was sitting behind Louis.”
The settlement is pending City Council approval. A city spokesperson told KHON2 that it resolves all known Puana claims against anyone in the city.
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A federal case is still pending for three former top-ranking officials who crafted Louis Kealoha’s HPD severance payment. The city has repeatedly denied the Kealohas’ requests for legal defense in their criminal and civil cases.