A Hawaii Island businessman who denied being the godfather of organized crime in Hawaii has died.
Family members confirmed to KHON2 that Larry Mehau passed away Tuesday morning in Kamuela. He was 86 years old.
His daughter, Anela Mehau, said Mehau had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and had been getting weaker.
“It was just bad, him not being able to do what he couldn’t do, even though he wanted to, but I’m just glad I was there,” she said. “He loved babies and children, loved having all his grandchildren all around him. He was a task master too. He was tough, but never unjustly or anything. Everybody just loves being around him.”
For years, Mehau was locked in a legal battle against former state Sen. Rick Reed over a speech Reed made in 1985 that referred to Mehau as the godfather of organized crime.
Mehau himself admitted he would never be able to lose that label. In 1994, he spoke to KHON2 about the case, while referring to his past as a tough, no-nonsense vice cop.
“I wish it were the old days when you could pull somebody by the ears and don’t get everyone else involved in a conspiracy, because that’s all they need. If I were to left hook someone, what would happen? Maybe I would break your jaw, or the guy’s jaw, and how long would he suffer? How long? It’ll heal eventually. In a year, he won’t even remember the pain, but that written word will follow me the rest of of my life. I mean that word is more powerful than anything I could to to hurt them.”
Former city prosecutor Peter Carlisle remembers the impact Mehau had on cleaning up Honolulu’s streets.
“He had been part of what was called the Metro Squad. The Metro Squad were a bunch of people who were police officers, including some who were very dear friends of mine, who were enforcing the law in a very, very severe manner. There were a lot of gang problems, there were a lot of people getting mugged, there was a time when killing was rampant,” Carlisle said. “He stepped in in a lot of ways with the rest of these police officers in this Metro Squad and started cleaning up downtown Honolulu, started cleaning up Fort Street, started cleaning up Waikiki, and in the long run, what had been an ongoing sort of gang warfare was mitigated to a large extent, and that was a very positive thing.”
Mehau was also known to support many of Hawaii’s high-profile politicians.
He had five children and two great-grandchildren.