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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 26, 2006

FBI ties security chief to organized crime

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Herbert Naone

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Aloha Stadium security chief Herbert Naone occupies a "prominent position in Hawai'i's organized crime and narcotics trafficking underworld" and used connections in government and local law enforcement to help himself and others evade arrest and prosecution, according to sworn FBI affidavits filed in federal court.

The affidavits, unsealed last month, were originally filed in 2004 to justify telephone wiretaps in a two-year FBI investigation of drug trafficking, gambling and government corruption in Hawai'i. The investigation produced indictments last month of some three dozen individuals, including an FBI secretary, several Honolulu police officers and a Honolulu Liquor Commission supervisor.

Naone, 57, was indicted with Liquor Commission supervisory inspector James Rodenhurst, 57, on charges of extortion. They have pleaded not guilty. Both men are former HPD officers. There are no organized-crime related charges against Naone.

Naone has been on paid vacation and sick leave from the stadium since the indictment was returned in mid-April.

Naone's attorney, Christopher Evans, said his client is cooperating with the government. Evans called the FBI allegations about Naone's organized crime ties "pure speculation."

Rodenhurst is on unpaid leave from his Liquor Commission job. He worked at HPD from 1968-1978 and began working at the Liquor Commission in June 2002, according to commission executive director Dewey Kim.

According to the FBI wiretap affidavits and the criminal indictment of Naone and Rodenhurst, Naone sometimes used his work phone at the stadium to discuss criminal activities with Rodenhurst, who was speaking on his Liquor Commission cell phone.

At one point, according to the court papers, Naone arranged to meet Rodenhurst at Aloha Stadium right after a high school football game to split a $1,600 extortion payment from bar owner Corey "Bozo" Kaowili Jr.

Kaowili, owner of Volcanoes Night Club and Sin City bar, has been charged with possessing and distributing methamphetamine. He has pleaded not guilty.

Naone also allegedly was paid $10,000 to mediate a dispute between two drug dealers and arranged a meeting between the parties at Aloha Stadium, according to the affidavits.


Rodenhurst's lawyer, Myles Breiner, said his client "has dedicated his life to law enforcement."

"He's made a few mistakes," Breiner said of Rodenhurst. "We live in a culture of corruption that permeates most of our public institutions."

Repeated attempts to contact Stadium Authority spokesman Patrick Leonard for comment on this story were unsuccessful. Authority chairman Kevin Chong Kee said after the Naone indictment was made public that the charges were "a shock to everybody involved" at the stadium. He said the allegations against Naone had "nothing to do" with his position at the stadium.

Naone became Aloha Stadium security chief, a state position, 18 years ago.

He was fired from HPD in the mid-1970s after he and two other HPD officers were charged with the shotgun robbery of a Kaua'i gambling game.

That case took five years to go to trial and charges against Naone were reduced from 25 counts of first-degree robbery to a single count of first degree theft. He was allowed to enter what's called a deferred acceptance of guilty plea and was fined $5,000. The theft charge was later erased from his record because he stayed out of legal trouble for five years.

Naone joined a private security guard firm, Hawaii Protective Association, and later became Aloha Stadium security chief.

In one of the affidavits, FBI Special Agent Timothy Beam said, "Historically, Naone has been the subject of several FBI organized crime and drug trafficking investigations. But due to his law enforcement background and his connections with local law enforcement and government officials, Naone has been able to elude law enforcement action and has directly assisted others in evading arrest and prosecution."

The affidavit continued: "As a result, Naone has ascended to a prominent position in Hawai'i's organized crime and narcotics trafficking underworld. Naone has established himself as a contact person for sensitive law enforcement information and has illustrated a willingness to provide assistance to targets of criminal investigations in exchange for money."

Throughout his employment by the state, Naone continued to work part-time at Hawaii Protective Association, which is owned by another former Ho-nolulu police officer, Larry Mehau. Naone is still employed there but is now on administrative leave, said HPA executive Dana Mehau-Vericella.

One of the FBI 2004 affidavits, filed to obtain court approval of a wiretap of Rodenhurst's work telephone at the Liquor Commission, described Mehau as a longtime Hawai'i organized crime figure.

Attempts to reach Mehau for comment were unsuccessful. Dana Mehau-Vericella, his daughter, said this week her father would have no comment on that allegation. "He's never been indicted for anything," she said.

A longtime influential figure in the Hawaii Democratic Party and past chairman of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, Mehau was once accused by a Honolulu City Prosecutor's aide of being the "godfather" of organized crime in Hawai'i, a charge that he adamantly denied. Mehau sued the prosecutor's aide, Rick Reed, for libel and invasion of privacy, but a Circuit Court jury decided the case in Reed's favor in 1992. Naone testified as a witness for Mehau in the trial.


In discussing Naone's ties to local law enforcement, one affidavit said that Naone's law enforcement background and connections made him a difficult subject of investigation through "traditional law enforcement techniques" such as surveillance or use of informants and undercover operations.

"Naone maintains a separate network of confidants that assist Naone's efforts to support criminal enterprises," the FBI said.

"It is these contacts, combined with Naone's own law enforcement experience and his current employment as the director of security at Aloha Stadium, that further diminish the effectiveness of these traditional law enforcement techniques," the FBI said.

Among the other allegations made against Naone in the FBI affidavits are that he:

  • Was paid $10,000 to arrange a Pearl Harbor shipyard job for a drug dealer. He reportedly was paid $7,000 to arrange another job as a stevedore.

  • Helped arrange, through Rodenhurst and another Liquor Commission staffer identified only by nickname, the issuance of fraudulent driver's licenses. The unnamed staffer had a "contact" at the city division of motor vehicles, according to wiretap transcripts.

  • Was a "close associate" of convicted methamphetamine trafficker Freeman Dekneef. Dekneef was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison last year after pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges. State land records show Naone sold Dekneef real estate on the Big Island in 2003.

  • Was paying the rent on a million-dollar house on Hawai'i Loa Ridge for a woman who the FBI believed for a time was a member of an organized crime group based in Italy. The belief was based on the fact that individuals who called the woman's phone used "voice modulator" devices to disguise their identities and had conversations about apparent gangland activity, according to the affidavits. But the FBI later determined that the woman was "fraudulently portraying" herself to be connected to organized crime, according to an affidavit filed in the Rodenhurst wiretap case.

    Reach Jim Dooley at jdooley@honoluluadvertiser.com.