Five arrests in alleged koa tree scheme

Authorities say men planned to sell wood cut on state land

Five Kaua’i men have been arrested by state law enforcement officers for allegedly cutting down and taking koa trees in state parks and forest areas in Koke’e without state permits.

Between April 1 and 10, officers with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources recovered more than 50 logs that had been stored at the homes of some of those arrested, according to Tarey Low, a DLNR officer with the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.

One of the men also was accused of drug offenses. All the men were released pending further investigation. However, they could conceivably be indicted on the felony offenses and others by a grand jury.

In Hawai’i, koa wood is highly prized in the creation of modern-day Hawaiian canoes and the making of furniture and handcrafted goods.

Low said the men planned to sell the wood for commercial use.

On April 1, two of the men — a 26-year-old whose address was not known and a 36-year-old Kalaheo resident — were arrested on suspicion of second-degree theft and prohibited possession of firearms.

On April 3, the other three men — 19, 38 and 41 years old — were arrested at a Kalaheo home where more koa logs were found. Authorities said all three of them are suspected of theft in the first degree, and the oldest also is suspected of possession of illegal drugs and prohibited drug paraphernalia.

The five men, whose arrests came on an anonymous tip to authorities, were released pending further investigation.

“We have evidence and are still collecting more evidence,” Low said. “The prosecutor is wanting to review the cases in totality before deciding what charges to apply.”

The men cut down and took the trees two months prior to the first arrest, Low said. Some of the wood that had been seized was possibly taken from the highway, as well, he said.

Kaua’i County Police officers participated in the arrests, according to deputy chief Wilfred Ihu.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and


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