By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 31-year-old Kurtistown man accused of a December homicide is one of five men accused of counterfeiting bogus business checks and cashing them at Big Island businesses early last year.
Claude Keone Krause pleaded not guilty on June 7 in U.S. District Court in Honolulu to conspiracy to counterfeit securities. The others are: Kainoa Andaya-Visser, 31, of Mountain View, charged with conspiracy to counterfeit securities and two counts of counterfeited securities; Ronson Lee Matsuo, 26, of Hilo, charged with conspiracy to counterfeit securities and six counts of counterfeited securities; Justin S. Okazaki-Shimahara, 28, of Hilo, with conspiracy to counterfeit securities and two counts of counterfeited securities; and Corey Faulkner, 23, of Honolulu, formerly of Hilo, with a single count each of conspiracy to counterfeit securities and counterfeited securities.
Conspiracy to counterfeit securities carries a possible five years imprisonment and $250,000 fine, while each count of countefeited securities carries a possible 10-year prison term and a $250,000 fine.
All were indicted on May 15, have pleaded not guilty, and are scheduled for trial on July 23 before U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson.
“We will certainly seek to have them tried together,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Hattan said Thursday. She said that bail was set for all defendants except Krause, “who remains in federal custody.” In denying bail to Krause, U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi declared Krause to be “a risk of nonappearance and danger to the community.”
Krause and a cousin, Kawena Krause, are charged with second-degree murder for the December slaying of Dante Peter Gilman at the victim’s Hawaiian Acres home. Both are scheduled to face trial Oct. 21 at 8:30 a.m. before Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara.
Hattan described Andaya-Visser, aka “Kai” and “K-Pop,” as the “lead defendant” who “recruited various people to pass the checks.”
“The indictment does not allege that Krause was one of those persons,” she said. “But what it does allege is that Krause gave Visser his personal First Hawaiian Bank account number for use in the counterfeit scheme. … In effect, it was the real bank account that enabled the scheme to go forward, that made (the checks) work and made them appear at the time of cashing as if they were real. The phony checks had real First Hawaiian Bank account numbers on them, and they were made out to the subjects, who alternately used or presented the checks for cashing at various Big Island businesses.”
The indictment said that Andaya-Visser used a computer, check-writing software and an ink-jet printer to make the checks, which appeared real, in January and February 2012, and that 11 checks, ranging in face value from $671.47 to $737.31, were cashed between Feb. 11 and Feb. 24, 2012.
“The ones with Krause’s bank account number on them were made to appear that a company that does not exist, Claude K. Krause LLC, had written paychecks to the various individuals who cashed those checks,” Hattan said. “By giving his real First Hawaiian Bank account number and lending that to the scheme, it was able to generate a number of checks that were made out to look like they real checks for wages and what not, when in fact, they were fictitious. The only part that was right on those checks was the First Hawaiian Bank account that was tied to Krause.”
Four checks purporting to be payment from “Claude K. Krause LLC” were allegedly cashed, two each by Andaya-Visser and Okazaki-Shimahara. Six checks purporting to be wages from the Research Corp. of the University of Hawaii were allegedly cashed, five by Matsuo, the other by Faulkner. And a check purporting to be a payment for a claim by First Insurance Co. of Hawaii was allegedly cashed by Matsuo. Hattan said that the defendants had the numbers to RCUH and First Insurance’s accounts.
Ten of the 11 checks were cashed at KTA Super Stores in Hilo and Waimea, and the other was cashed at Pay Day Hawaii in Hilo.
Andaya-Visser was arrested April 27 by Big Island police and charged with 39 counts each of theft and negotiating a worthless instrument. Report numbers indicate all the charges are for offenses that allegedly occurred in 2012, but all are misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors, which indicate they’re not related to the federal case.
In an unrelated case, Faulkner was arrested and charged with burglary in early April by Honolulu police after KHON-TV showed surveillance video of a home burglary in progress and several callers identified the alleged burglar as Faulkner.
First Hawaiian Bank spokeswoman Susan Kam Yokoyama said the investigation was done by a task force comprised of U.S. Secret Service agents, U.S. Postal Inspectors and Hawaii Police Department detectives. She said the bank “is not able to comment on pending litigation.”
Nora Forsythe, the bank’s vice president for loss prevention and recovery, offered two tips for account holders to prevent being victimized in a similar scheme:
• If you believe your account has been compromised, call or go to your nearest bank branch and immediately close your account to prevent further fraudulent activity on your account.
• Switch to direct deposit instead of mailing out payroll checks. Direct deposit is a safer way to ensure money is deposited into the appropriate account.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.