Nightclub money extortion charged
|||PDF: Statement from newly-appointed Liquor Commission Administrator Dewey H. Kim Jr. on the indictment|
By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer
By Ken Kobayashi
A massive FBI investigation that produced criminal charges against Honolulu police officers last week also resulted in a federal indictment accusing a Honolulu Liquor Commission supervisor and the head of security at Aloha Stadium of extorting money from the owner of two nightclubs.
James Rodenhurst, 57, the commission night-shift supervisor inspector, and Herbert Naone, 57, the stadium security official, are charged with extorting about $500 a week from the owner of Volcanoes Nightclub at Nimitz Highway and Sin City, also known as Club Pearlridge, in Pearl City from May 2004 to January 2005.
The indictment follows an earlier federal bribery prosecution of eight liquor inspectors and has prompted U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo yesterday to warn that if there are more problems with the commission, he will consider seeking a federal takeover.
Rodenhurst was hired in 2002 after the eight liquor inspectors were charged with bribery and fired, said Dewey Kim Jr., who was appointed liquor commission administrator this month.
Kim said he has already started to resolve problems and he has made it clear that no inspector can take anything from the establishments they supervise.
Rodenhurst and Naone, both former police officers, pleaded not guilty to the extortion charge, which carries up to 20 years in prison. The two each remain free on a $25,000 unsecured bond.
Attorney Myles Breiner, who is representing Rodenhurst, said his client retired from the Ho-nolulu Police Department before taking his post with the liquor commission and has dedicated his life to law enforcement.
"He's made a few mistakes," Breiner said. "All I have are allegations and they are merely allegations. We live in a culture of corruption that permeates most of our public institutions."
Naone has committed his life to law enforcement and has excelled in his role as head of security at Aloha Stadium, said his attorney, Chris Evans. Also, Naone is cooperating with the government, Evans said.
Patrick Leonard, stadium spokesman, said Naone has been with Aloha Stadium for 18 years.
As of yesterday, Naone was still employed at the stadium, Leonard said. He said stadium officials will meet Monday morning to discuss the indictment and will make a statement after the meeting.
"I spoke to our chairman and also our general manager and this comes as a complete surprise to all of us," Leonard said. "We had no idea he was being investigated."
Federal authorities identified the owner of the nightclubs as Corey "Bozo" Kaowili Jr., who also was charged in the FBI probe that eventually ensnared the police officers.
The FBI investigation was touched off by allegations that a trusted FBI secretary leaked information to her husband about law enforcement actions against drug dealers.
That case led to a drug indictment against the secretary, Charmaine Moniz, and her husband, Eric Moniz, and spread to others, including Kaowili.
The nightclub owner pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges of possessing and distributing methamphetamine.
His attorney, David Klein, declined to comment about the case.
The indictments are the second wave resulting from the FBI investigation that has included searches of dozens of homes and at least 10 wiretaps. Four HPD officers and a former officer were charged in indictments last week with trying to protect a Waialua cockfighting and gambling operation, hiding cockfight gaffs and a firearms violations.
With the extortion indictment, the FBI investigation is now clearly the largest here ever alleging such a wide range of corruption. In addition, about 30 others have been charged with drug offenses.
The Honolulu Liquor Commission is responsible for enforcing liquor laws for more than 1,400 bars, restaurant and retailers that serve liquor.
Kubo said Kaowili either sold liquor without a permit or, after he acquired one, served drinks past the legally imposed 2 a.m. closing time. As a result, Kaowili wanted information about liquor inspector raids and called Naone, who contacted Rodenhurst, Kubo said.
Kaowili paid $500 a week to Naone, who gave half to Rodenhurst, according to Kubo.
Rodenhurst would then warn the establishments about liquor inspector raids, but also started inspecting the nightclubs as a way to coerce Kaowili to ensure that he would keep paying the money, Kubo said.
Rodenhurst supervises four or five inspectors overseeing establishments until they close at 2 or 4 a.m., according to Kim, the commission administrator.
The eight former inspectors were charged with accepting bribes from owners and other employees of 45 hostess and strip bars in 2000 and 2001 in what was then described by authorities as the state's largest corruption case involving a government agency. The eight either pleaded guilty or were found guilty.
Kubo said that when he announced the bribery indictments in 2002 he had asked that stricter controls be put in place at the commission to avoid a recurrence of that type of corruption.
"Here we are again with the same problem," he said.
Kubo said he hopes the issues will be properly addressed, but if they aren't and corruption charges surface again, he will consider asking the federal court to step in and appoint a master to "oversee and change the system."
It would be first time that the federal court would take over a law enforcement agency here.
Kim, who became commission administrator April 3, said he will be cooperating with the federal authorities. He said he'll ask for help from the police, attorney general's office, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies if the commission cannot resolve the issues by itself.
"My number one job is to clean this thing up," he said. "It's been going on for far too long. The public has a right to expect our people do things in an ethical way."
Naone, the stadium security director, has been in trouble with the law before.
He was fired from the police force after he and two other Honolulu police officers were accused of robbing a Kaua'i gambling game of between $10,000 and $80,000 in 1975.
Naone and the two other officers originally were charged with 25 counts each of first-degree robbery because the masked men who held up the illegal gambling game used shotguns in the crime.
But the case took five years to go to trial and the three defendants eventually entered what are called deferred acceptance of guilty pleas to a single count each of first-degree theft. They paid $5,000 fines and served no jail time.
Naone's conviction record was erased because he stayed out of trouble for five years after entering the plea.
After leaving HPD, Naone went to work for a security guard company, Hawaii Protective Association, run by a longtime friend and fellow former HPD officer Larry Mehau. The company at one time held the Aloha Stadium security guard contract and Naone was hired as stadium security director after Hawaii Protective lost the contract.Staff writers Peter Boylan, Jim Dooley and Curtis Lum contributed to this report.
Reach Ken Kobayashi at firstname.lastname@example.org.