A Hawaii Reporter inquiry has led to the resignation of Hawaiian Homelands Commissioner Perry Artates.
In June, Artates and his wife, Ronnette, pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and false loan application charges, court records show.
Apparently, Abercrombie did not know about the charges until Hawaii Reporter asked about them.
“Governor Abercrombie was not aware of this matter until today,” Louise Kim McCoy, his press secretary, said late Tuesday afternoon. “The governor has received and accepted a letter of resignation from Mr. Artates.”
The federal case against Perry Artates and his wife, Ronnette Artates, centered around a 2007 mortgage transaction, from which they both benefitted. According to a 2012 federal indictment, Perry and Ronnette Artates approached Pedro Oliveros and his wife, who were facing foreclosure on their home in Makawao, Maui. The Artatesess offered to buy it.
Ronnette Artates, at the time, was a licensed real estate agent. Perry and Ronnette Artates promised to let the couple live in the home for six months while paying rent, and then allow them to buy it back when their financial situation improved.
The deal went through, the indictment said, but Perry Artates claimed in two legal documents he would be the owner and occupant of the home, which helped him get a loan for 100 percent of the transaction. This amounted to a false statement to a financial institution, the indictment says. Ronnette Artates collected a commission for the sale, federal records show.
About six months later, the couple fell behind on their rent, and Perry Artates evicted them.
Civil litigation followed in 2009, and that case is pending.
Federal agents in 2012 indicted Perry and Ronnette Artates on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and making a false loan application.
In June 2013, the couple pleaded guilty to the reduced charges. Sentencing hearings are scheduled Sept. 23.
The agency, which falls under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, manages state land set aside for native Hawaiians.
Artates was also serving as the executive director of the Hawaii Operating Engineers Stabilization Fund, which lobbies for union-backed legislation related to construction and development, and has been a primary advocate for the Honolulu rail project, until March 2013. The organization campaigns and raises money for Democratic candidates who support their agenda.
Artates is also a member of the board of directors of the Maui Economic Development Board and for six years served as the former chairman of the Waiohuli Hawaiian Homesteaders Association.
The Hawaiian Homelands Commission did not respond to inquiries from Hawaii Reporter for comment.