Mayoral candidate awaiting sentencing
While he awaits sentencing on four felony charges, Nelson Waikiki Jr. is among candidates who have filed to run for Maui County mayor.
“What I can tell you is I have not broken the law,” Waikiki said Friday by telephone. “We know that because I am able to get on the ballot.
“I have an obligation to the court system as well, but I am under the protection of the law where I am able to run as a candidate until such time I’m sentenced.”
Under state law, a person sentenced for a felony may not become a candidate for or hold public office from the time of the person’s sentence until the person’s final discharge.
Waikiki is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10 – about a month after the Nov. 4 general election – on four felony securities fraud charges connected to an investment scheme involving Opunui Water Co. and Opunui Land and Water Co.
After being jailed for more than nine months, Waikiki, 49, of Wailuku was released on supervision after pleading guilty April 11 to four reduced charges in his 2nd Circuit Court case.
According to the indictment, nearly two dozen people – including a hui of seven – invested more than $100,000 with Waikiki, who wasn’t a registered securities broker, from July 2008 to December 2012.
Waikiki promised investors percentages of future profits, with the collective amount exceeding 100 percent, according to a preliminary order to cease and desist in the sale of unregistered securities issued by Hawaii Securities Commissioner Tung Chan in July 2012.
Waikiki pleaded guilty to failure to meet securities registration requirements, failure to meet broker-dealer requirements and two counts of general securities fraud, with each charge carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The charges had been reduced from the original Class A felonies, which carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
As part of his plea deal, Waikiki agreed to pay $141,100 in restitution, including $60,000 to be paid before or at the time of his sentencing. If he makes the $60,000 payment, the plea agreement recommends he be placed on five years’ probation and be given credit for time he already served in jail.
If the money isn’t paid, Waikiki agreed to be sentenced to a 10-year prison term.
If placed on probation, he could seek a deferral that would give him a chance to keep convictions off his record if he follows court requirements for five years.
Waikiki said he doesn’t know what would happen at his sentencing if he is elected mayor. “I’m not sure how that would play out,” he said. “Should I get elected, I’m sure I have a little bit more favor than I had the first time with the judge.
“If the judge sees I took care of requirements and complied, it looks a little different. In the long term, at the end of the day, I need a job. Just because something happened doesn’t mean I stop doing and committing to what my goals are.”
State law says someone holding a public office forfeits the position as of the date of conviction.
According to the Maui County Code: “If the mayor ceases to be a voter of the county, or is adjudicated guilty of a felony, the mayor shall immediately forfeit the office of the mayor.”
In addition to running for mayor, Waikiki said he has a consulting company working with businesses seeking water meters and construction clients who want to develop on Maui.
He said he’s “not being hidden from the community.”
“Now people are thinking in their heads, ‘He goes through the process, gets incarcerated and all of a sudden he’s on the ballot,’ ” Waikiki said. “I’m not worried about what people say. I’m only concerned about my ability to do what I can do and try to do it legally. I have always wanted to make right with these people.”
When the state attorney general’s office stepped in to prosecute him, “that shifted from civil to criminal,” Waikiki said.
“I am not saying what I did was right. I am not saying what I did was wrong,” he said. “Because of misinformation being passed back and forth, a lot of what was said wasn’t really true.”
Waikiki unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2006.
This election season, the other challengers to incumbent Mayor Alan Arakawa are Beau Hawkes of Makawao, Alana Kay of Kihei, Orion “Ori” Kopelman of Kahului, Neldon Mamuad of Makawao and Tamara Paltin of Lahaina.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.