Last ex-officer in bribery scheme sentenced
Unlike other defendants, Ahuna does not receive jail time
The Maui News
A former Maui Police Department sergeant has been ordered to pay a $2,000 fine for conspiring with others to bribe a witness who reported that money was stolen by another officer during a traffic stop.
Walter “Kepa” Ahuna, 36, was placed on three years’ probation and received no prison time when he was sentenced Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Honolulu.
He was the last of four defendants to be sentenced in the case that arose after Anthony “Ikaika” Maldonado, at the time a Lahaina patrol officer, conducted a traffic stop at Mala Wharf on Sept. 30, 2015. The driver, who was alone in the car, used crutches to stand when he got out of the vehicle and spoke limited English.
Maldonado removed a waist pack from the driver and stole about $1,800 from the waist pack, according to court documents and information presented in court. The victim reported the theft to police the next day after he realized the cash was missing. Maldonado was arrested Oct. 1, 2015, released pending further investigation of theft and placed on leave while police investigated.
A couple of weeks later, Maldonado, Ahuna, Damien Kaina Jr. and former MPD officer Chase Keliipaakaua were implicated in a plan to try to bribe the victim to withdraw the complaint.
Ahuna reportedly told Maldonado and Kaina that he opposed the plan and that trying to bribe the victim was illegal, according to court documents.
On Oct. 13, 2015, Kaina went to the driver’s home and offered him about $2,000 to withdraw his complaint against Maldonado, according to court documents. The victim eventually took $1,800 from Kaina so he would leave, according to court documents.
Afterward, Ahuna drove to the area, picked up his cousin Kaina as planned and drove Kaina to Maalaea, where Maldonado was waiting in Kaina’s car, according to court documents.
Keliipaakaua, who was working at the Lahaina Police Station, called the victim at Maldonado’s request Oct. 14, 2015, to ask whether the victim planned to go to the station to withdraw the complaint, court records show.
Ahuna waived indictment in the case and pleaded guilty to witness tampering in June 2017.
His sentencing followed the sentencings last month of Maldonado, Keliipaakaua and Kaina.
Maldonado, 29, of Kahului was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of a civilian by stealing money from him and conspiring to obstruct the federal investigation of the theft. Maldonado was ordered to pay $1,918 in restitution.
Keliipaakaua, 31, was sentenced to four months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit witness tampering.
Kaina, 39, was sentenced to two months in jail and three years of supervised release for witness tampering.
“We’re very happy that he received no jail, no confinement and that the court took into consideration his 15 years with the Maui Police Department, that he had never been sanctioned or committed any misconduct as a police officer for 15 years,” said Ahuna’s attorney, Myles Breiner. “It was unfortunate. He was just trying to help a cousin by trying to tell him not to be involved in this.
“He should have immediately informed the chain of command, gone to the chief. He regrets that.”
Breiner said the court complimented Ahuna, who grew up in Hana, on his character and the fact that he took responsibility.
“It was very hard for Kepa to do this because the one thing he lived for was to be a police officer,” Breiner said. “He was successful, became a sergeant.”
Ahuna resigned from the department.
“He’s very concerned because there’s continuing corruption within the department,” Breiner said. “What was going on with Maldonado and the other officers was not an exception but common. And the department needs to be thoroughly investigated from the top down.”