BY JIM DOOLEY – Members of a Maui group that promised elimination of tax bills and mortgage debts were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on 25 criminal charges, including fraud, money-laundering and tax offenses.

Charged were Mahealani Ventura-Oliver, 42, her husband, John D. Oliver, 46, and three others involved in groups called Hawaiiloa Foundation, Ko Hawaii Pae Aina and The Registry.

The defendants allegedly collected $468,000 in fees or “kokua” payments from 2008-2110 to hold private meetings about “a debt assistance program which they claimed could eliminate mortgage, credit card and other debt,” said Hawaii U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni.

Other defendants in the case are Pilialoha K. Teves, 49, Leatrice Lehua Hoy, 52 and Peter “Petro” Hoy, 76, all of Maui.

All are scheduled to appear in federal court next month, said Asst. U.S. Atty. Larry Tong.

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 wince 2009.

Its members and adherents filed a flurry of paperwork in federal court in 2009, claiming that a series of FBI searches and asset seizures on Maui were illegal.

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.”

Members could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The defendants allegedly collected individual fees of $1,500 to $10,000 and also prepared false income tax filings which claimed refunds of more than $1.5 million.

Tong declined to say if any of the refund claims were honored by the IRS.

Assisting in the investigation were criminal investigators from the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service.

 

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com