BY JIM DOOLEY – Three of five members of a Maui Hawaiian sovereignty group indicted last month on federal fraud charges failed to appear in federal court today and bench warrants were ordered for their arrests.
Two other defendants, Peter Hoy, 76, and Leatrice Hoy, 52, entered not guilty pleas before Chang.
The defendants are members of Maui-based groups called Hawaiiloa Foundation, Ko Hawaii Pae Aina and The Registry.
They were indicted last month on 25 criminal charges that include fraud, money-laundering and tax offenses.
Federal Deputy Public Defender Alexander Silvert appeared at the hearing on behalf of Ventura-Oliver, although he said she has not formally agreed to his representation of her.
Silvert told Chang that Ventura-Oliver had not contacted his office about the case against her.
He argued against issuance of the arrest warrants, saying the judge could re-issue criminal summons ordering the appearance of the defendants.
But Chang said he was ordering their arrests.
An officer from the federal pre-trial services office told Chang that John Oliver claimed in a telephone conversation that he was homeless because his wife and kicked him out of their house.
He also said he would consider appearing in court if he was provided with free airline tickets and if his appearance date was set for February 2047.
Oliver also said he did not want to be represented by court-appointed defense lawyer Jeffrey Arakaki.
Dana Ishibashi, lawyer for Peter Hoy, said the Hoys are themselves victims in the case.
“He doesn’t want people to believe what’s being said about him,” Ishibashi said after the hearing.
“My client and his wife lost their house because they were so convinced these people could help them,” said Ishibashi.
Leatrice Hoy was employed for a time as “in a clerical job” for the Olivers, “not knowing what they were actually doing,” said Ishibashi.
“As soon as she figured it out, she cut her ties to them,” the lawyer said.
“In fact, she gathered materials together and gave them to the FBI,” Ishibashi said.
In a news conference last month, U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni alleged that the defendants collected $468,000 in “kokua” payments from their victims beween 2008 and 2110, holding private meetings about “a debt assistance program which they claimed could eliminate mortgage, credit card and other debt.”
The indictment alleged that the defendants told their followers that all indviduals hold “special reserves” in the U.S. Treasury which could be used to “zero out” debts.
They allegedly issued fictitious bonds, promissory notes and money orders “which they falsely claimed were backed by the U.S. Treasury and State of Hawaii,” the government alleged.
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been investigating the group since 2009.
Ko Hawaii Pae Aina claims on its website, http://kohawaiipaeaina.net, that it represents a sovereign nation “comprised of all of the landed property belonging to Hawaiiloa a great Navigator King and founder of Pacific trade, commerce and oceanic development within the Pacific Triangle and outer Pacific Rim.”