Calucag sentenced to 30 years
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Jim Dooley
As family members and friends of Kaua'i murder victim John Elwin described Henry Calucag Jr. as a remorseless and cunning predator, Calucag sat quietly in court, never saying a word except to whisper occasionally to his lawyer.
Calucag could have spoken on his own behalf before Circuit Judge Michael Town pronounced sentence yesterday, but he kept silent.
Calucag was convicted in June of stealing the identity, and then the assets of Elwin, a friend for more than a dozen years. He also is a suspect in the shooting death of Elwin in the Philippines last year.
Town yesterday ordered Calucag, 58, to serve back-to-back terms of 20 and 10 years in prison.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Van Marter called it a "substantial sentence" for a man convicted of eight felony counts of credit-card fraud, forgery, fraudulent use of a computer and identity theft.
The sentence also shows that an international task force of law enforcement agencies has made "substantial improvements" in its investigation of Calucag's possible involvement in Elwin's death, as well as a similar disappearance of Douglas Ho of Honolulu in the Philippines in 2005, Van Marter said.
A third disappearance of a Honolulu man, Arthur Young, also a friend of Calucag, in the Philippines in 1989 is also being probed, Van Marter said.
Calucag received an "enhanced sentence" because he was convicted of earlier offenses of fraud in federal court here in 1995 and was resentenced to more time in prison in 1999 after committing additional fraudulent acts.
Before sentencing, Town heard from several of Elwin's relatives and friends.
TOLL ON FAMILY
The 51-year-old victim, a well-to-do investor and owner of a Kaua'i paint store, was a "decent, hard-working, good man" whose victimization and death has taken a terrible toll on his family, said his sister-in-law, Kristi Elwin. The defendant, known to Elwin's family and acquaintances as Hank Jacinto, "robbed all the children in the family of their innocence," she told Town.
Calucag stole Kaua'i real estate worth more than $200,000 that Elwin meant to pass on to his daughter Jennie, now 17, said Kristi Elwin.
She asked the judge to sentence Calucag to the "maximum extent of the law," warning that "if he's let out of jail he will prey on others."
Her husband, Chris Elwin, told the judge that when John Elwin disappeared last year, concerned family members spent "hundreds of hours" trying to find him and trace his movements.
When contacted for assistance, Calucag discouraged Chris Elwin from going to police, saying that Elwin left the country voluntarily.
"He tried to convince me that John didn't want to be part of the family" anymore, Elwin testified.
"He's a cold, calculating career criminal who devastated families with no remorse," Chris Elwin said.
Longtime friend Luis Saltren noted that Calucag was convicted of using Elwin's credit cards after he disappeared but before his body was discovered.
"He knew John was dead," Saltren said, calling the fraud "a crime that only works when the victim is dead."
Saltren also asked for maximum punishment. "Do not waste your mercy on Hank Jacinto," he told the judge. "He is evil."
Defense attorney Mark Kawata protested that much of the testimony at yesterday's sentencing concerned the murder of Elwin, a crime that Calucag is not charged with.
"That's not the issue here," Kawata said.
"There's no evidence that Mr. Calucag had anything to do with the cause of death of Mr. Elwin or anyone else," Kawata said.
Kawata noted that, given Calucag's age, a prison sentence of 20 years was the equivalent of a life sentence.
Town said that Elwin was someone "who lived life to the fullest and was an all-around good guy."
"The victim did nothing to provoke or cause the crimes perpetrated against him," the judge said.
The mandatory minimum sentence Calucag must serve before being eligible for parole is 6 1/2 years in prison, but Van Marter said his office would ask the Paroling Authority to increase that minimum term.
Reach Jim Dooley at email@example.com.