Former Honolulu Police Officers Sentenced for Framing an Innocent Man with a Crime
Special Attorneys Michael Wheat (619) 546-8437, Joseph Orabona (619) 546-7951, Janaki Chopra (619) 546-8817, and Colin McDonald (619) 546-9144
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – December 1, 2020
HONOLULU, Hawaii – Two former Honolulu police officers, Derek Wayne Hahn and Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, were sentenced today for conspiring to obstruct justice by framing an innocent man with a crime he did not commit. Hahn and Nguyen were sentenced to 42 and 54 months in custody, respectively, by Chief U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright. Each will also be subject to two years of supervised release following their sentence.
In imposing the sentences, Judge Seabright remarked that the conspiracy was “staggering in its breadth, its scope, and its audacity.” He stated further that “the impact on the community is clear: the conduct of the defendants has shaken the community and its trust in the Honolulu Police Department.”
The sentences imposed today mark the end of one of the largest public corruption cases in Hawaii. In June 2019, after six weeks of trial and one day of deliberation, a federal jury in Honolulu convicted Hahn, Nguyen, and their two co-conspirators, former Honolulu prosecutor Katherine Kealoha and former Honolulu Chief of Police Louis Kealoha, of conspiracy and attempted obstruction of justice pertaining to the false arrest and prosecution of Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana. The evidence at trial established that the conspirators used their considerable power, including commandeering the Honolulu Police Department’s elite Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU), to frame Gerard with stealing the Kealohas’ mailbox. The Kealohas’ motive for framing Gerard was to discredit and intimidate him after he accused Katherine of extensive fraud, of which Gerard and his elderly mother—Katherine’s grandmother—Florence Puana were victims. Hahn and Nguyen were both members of CIU, which acted directly at the behest of Louis.
As Lieutenant of CIU, Hahn—who also had a business relationship with Katherine—played an integral role in the conspiracy to frame, arrest, and prosecute Gerard Puana. As Judge Seabright said at sentencing, Hahn “had his fingerprints all over the efforts the Kealohas were making to frame Gerard Puana for a crime he did not commit.” To accomplish the frame job, Hahn directed 20-30 police officers to conduct 24-hour surveillance of Gerard and initiate unnecessary law enforcement database searches of Gerard, his residence, and vehicle. Hahn also directed a CIU officer to selectively edit the surveillance video of the alleged mailbox “theft,” write false reports about the surveillance video, and destroy the original evidence so that the conspirators’ criminal acts could not be uncovered. Judge Seabright commented that Hahn “wanted to make it look as clean as possible. As sterile as possible. As by the book as possible.”
For his part, Nguyen—who was related by marriage to the Kealohas at the time—manipulated Florence into providing information about Gerard that would later be used to frame him. Nguyen also participated in an illegal search of Gerard’s residence, falsely identified Gerard as the “thief” in the surveillance video of the frame job, generated false police reports about Gerard, and conducted surveillance of Gerard leading to Gerard’s false arrest. Doubling down on all of his criminal actions, Nguyen then repeatedly lied with “ease and arrogance,” as noted by Judge Seabright, to the Honolulu Ethics Commission, federal agents, and the federal grand jury about the conspirators’ scheme and his extensive involvement in it. “Bobby Nguyen was a willing participant in all this. Happy to help. Happy to set up Gerard. Happy to leave this trail of destruction,” Judge Seabright said today.
“These officers shattered the victims’ lives and dishonored the Honolulu Police Department, said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “This community deserved so much better from these officers. Today’s sentences, which bring this chapter to a close, will aid in restoring faith in a system that ultimately delivered justice.” Brewer praised FBI agents and Special Attorneys Michael Wheat, Joseph Orabona, Janaki Chopra, and Colin McDonald for achieving justice in this case after many years of tenacious investigation and skillful litigation.
Yesterday, Katherine Kealoha and Louis Kealoha were sentenced to 13 years and seven years, respectively. At the conclusion of their sentencing hearings, Hahn and Nguyen were ordered to report to prison on April 12, 2021.
DEFENDANTS Case Number: CR 17-00582-JMS-WRP
Derek Wayne Hahn Age: 48 Honolulu, Hawaii
Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen Age: 46 Kaneohe, Hawaii
SUMMARY OF CONVICTIONS
Conspiracy to Commit Offenses Against the United States – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371
Maximum penalty: Five years in prison, $250,000 fine
Obstruction of Official Proceeding – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1512(c) (three counts)
Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison, $250,000 fine
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Honolulu, Portland, and San Diego Divisions