Former Maui police officer pleads guilty to traffic-stop theft
He also is charged with bribery, faces up to 21 years in prison, $350,000 in fines
The Maui News
A former Maui Police Department officer pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to charges brought after he stole money from a man during a traffic stop and later tried to bribe the victim to withdraw his theft complaint.
Anthony “Ikaika” Maldonado, 29, of Kahului entered the guilty pleas to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of conspiracy to commit witness tampering.
In exchange for his pleas, the government agreed to dismiss a charge of conspiracy to commit witness tampering against Maldonado’s wife, Kelsey Maldonado.
According to court documents and information presented in court, Maldonado was working as a Lahaina patrol officer when he 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 waistpack from the driver and stole about $1,800 from the waistpack. When the victim later realized the cash was missing, he reported the theft to police.
Maldonado and four others, including two other police officers, participated in a plan to try to bribe the victim to withdraw the complaint, according to an indictment handed down in November.
“Everyone should be able to trust that an encounter with law enforcement will not result in theft,” Kenji Price, U.S. attorney for the Hawaii District, said in a news release. “No one is above the law, least of all police officers who are charged with protecting our community.”
Maldonado is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 23 in Honolulu before Senior U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor. He faces up to 21 years in prison, a fine of up to $350,000 and up to three years of supervised release.
Police said Maldonado, who had been a police officer for about five years, was placed on unpaid leave after he was arrested in October 2015 and later resigned from the department.
Another former Maui officer, Chase Keliipaakaua, 31, pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to commit witness tampering in the case.
According to court documents, in October 2015, Keliipaakaua received a call from Maldonado, who said he was thinking about offering the victim money so he would withdraw the complaint against Maldonado, according to court documents. Keliipaakaua advised Maldonado not to present the bribe himself because if the plan didn’t succeed, he could face another charge for bribing a witness. Maldonado “responded that he had other people who would carry out the bribe for him so that the bribe could not be linked to him,” according to court documents.
On Oct. 13, 2015, co-defendant Damien Kaina Jr. went to the victim’s house and offered him about $2,000 he received from Maldonado in exchange for the victim withdrawing his complaint against Maldonado. The victim eventually took $1,800 from Kaina so he would leave. The next morning, the victim reported what happened to police.
Maldonado expected the victim to withdraw his complaint Oct. 14, 2015, at the Lahaina Police Station and informed Keliipaakaua, who was working there that day, according to court documents. Keliipaakaua texted Maldonado when the victim didn’t show up. After Maldonado asked, Keliipaakaua called the victim to ask whether he planned to go to the station to withdraw the complaint.
Keliipaakaua is scheduled to be sentenced July 26 on the conspiracy charge, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
Police said Keliipaakaua, who had been reassigned to the police Receiving Desk, resigned from his job last month.
Kaina and his cousin former Maui police Sgt. Walter “Kepa” Ahuna also are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to witness tampering.
“Law enforcement officers must uphold their pledge to protect the members of their communities and conduct themselves with honor,” acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division said in the news release. “The Justice Department will continue to enforce the law and protect the civil rights of all to be free from willful police misconduct.”