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3 former Honolulu city officials surrender to FBI in connection to Kealoha conspiracy case

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3 Former Honolulu City Officials Indicted

(From left: Former Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, former Honolulu Police Commission Chair Max Sword, and Former Managing Director Roy Amemiya)

Three former Honolulu city officials surrendered to the FBI on Wednesday, facing federal conspiracy charges related to the corruption case of former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his estranged wife Katherine Kealoha.

HONOLULU (KITV4) -- Three former Honolulu city officials surrendered to the FBI on Wednesday, facing federal conspiracy charges related to the corruption case of former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his estranged wife Katherine Kealoha.

Former Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, former Honolulu Police Commission Chair Max Sword, and Former Managing Director Roy Amemiya, are all identified as defendants in a federal indictment document with the US District Court of Hawaii, filed on Dec. 16, 2021. An arraignment hearing was held at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

According to the indictment, all three defendants are facing a federal conspiracy charge after they allegedly used $250,000 in public funds for a payout to former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha back in 2017. They used police department funds allocated for salaries, causing a budget shortfall for salaries, to circumvent approval from the City Council. City council members had been questioning Kealoha’s retirement agreement, the Associated Press reported.

All three defendants were released on $50,000 unsecured bail. 

A jury convicted both Louis Kealoha and Katherine Kealoha of conspiracy in a plot to frame a relative to keep him from revealing fraud that enriched the couple’s lavish lifestyle.

Kealoha is serving a seven-year prison term and his wife is serving a 13-year sentence.

Sword’s attorney, William McCorriston, issued the following statement on the case:

“Mr. Sword is both shocked and disappointed by the indictment today, as he has cooperated completely with the government in its investigation of this matter.

His only alleged “misconduct” was following the legal advice given to him by the Corporation Counsel’s office and the recommendations of the Administration, including the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, which recommended the structure of the settlement.

Interested parties, including City Council Members, the Honolulu Police Department, and the public were allowed to give their input in a public hearing on this matter. The Corporation Counsel’s advice to the Honolulu Police Commission, including Mr. Sword, confirmed its recommendation for the settlement structure and its appropriateness for this case after hearing objections from the Honolulu Police Department and others. The vote of the Commission, not just Mr. Sword, was overwhelmingly to approve the settlement structure proposed by Corporation Counsel.

Mr. Sword served as a volunteer on the Honolulu Police Commission for 10 years and has served on numerous boards and in other volunteer positions over the years and built a solid reputation for honesty, integrity, and service to the community.

We will vigorously defend Mr. Sword from this unjust charge.”

Amemiya’s attorney, Lyle S. Hosoda, also issued a statement about this case:

“After many months of not hearing or receiving anything, last evening, my client Roy Amemiya was informed that federal charges are being pursued against him arising out of and relating to the Honolulu Police Commission’s decision to allow former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha to disassociate from HPD, keep his retirement and receive a $250,000 payment as part of a severance agreement back in 2017. Mr. Amemiya is frustrated and disappointed with the decision of our government to pursue these charges which are false and baseless. The Indictment itself shows that Mr. Amemiya was not involved in the decision regarding Chief Kealoha’s disassociation and severance from HPD. Mr. Amemiya learned of this action at the same time the public learned through the news media.

It has been Mr. Amemiya’s honor and privilege to serve the people of Honolulu as the City’s Managing Director. While he has always believed and trusted in the justice system, this situation is difficult to comprehend. Mr. Amemiya has cooperated throughout the investigation and turned himself in this morning upon being contacted by the federal authorities.”

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi issued the following statement on this incident:

“The City is troubled and saddened to learn of the indictment unsealed today charging former city officials Leong, Amemiya and Sword. The Administration recognizes the indictment contains allegations, not facts, and will monitor the matter closely. We are committed to ending public corruption and restoring faith in government.”

Read more of KITV4's coverage of the Kealoha conspiracy case.

Former HPD officer, Big Island firefighter involved in Kealoha corruption case sentenced
Motion to dismiss the criminal information against Ransen Taito granted on Monday
Kealoha files top of Honolulu Prosecutor's to-do list
Two sentences handed down on Wednesday in connection to Kealoha corruption case
Louis Kealoha granted extra months of freedom in order to receive a vaccine

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Digital Content Manager

Matthew has been the digital content manager for KITV4 since September 2021. Matthew is a prolific writer, editor, and self-described "newsie" who's worked in television markets in Oklahoma, California, and Hawaii.

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