Baldwin arrested by FBI

Gary James Baldwin, 53, is scheduled to appear in state court in Honolulu today, where he is expected to either waive or fight extradition to Arizona to face felony theft and fraud charges.

His attorney, Philip H. Lowenthal of Maui, couldn’t say yesterday whether his client will fight or waive extradition.

Baldwin surrendered quietly to Federal Bureau of Investigation and Kauai Police Department officers Monday morning at his home in Kilauea, where he was arrested on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

He spent the night on O’ahu in Honolulu Police Department custody, and after the extradition hearing will be turned over to the state Department of Public Safety. He may end up at the Oahu Community Correctional Center or another state facility, said Jean Motoyama, HPD spokeswoman.

If he waives extradition, he will remain in state custody on O’ahu until turned over to Maricopa County, Ariz. officials. If he chooses to fight extradition, court proceedings will be scheduled in Honolulu, Motoyama explained.

Baldwin, a founder of the Kauai Economic Development Board and considered by many a driving force behind developing the island’s high-technology industry, allegedly defrauded a prominent Phoenix doctor out of around $300,000, according to Kevin Rickett, chief division counsel with the FBI Honolulu office.

Phoenix newspapers reported that Baldwin worked as a consultant for an eye clinic when the alleged fraud took place.

Indicted in 1986 by an Arizona grand jury on four felony theft counts and one count of perpetrating a fraudulent scheme, also a felony, Baldwin upon hearing of the indictment allegedly left a suicide note and disappeared, according to the FBI.

Once the Honolulu FBI got information that Baldwin was living on Kaua’i, it needed to get a request for assistance from a state or county law enforcement agency, then convince a federal judge to issue a federal arrest warrant based on evidence that Baldwin had left Arizona to avoid prosecution, Rickett said.

But Rickett couldn’t answer the question of why it took 16 years to track Baldwin down, when he apparently didn’t even change his name after the Arizona indictment came down.

Phoenix FBI agents didn’t get a federal warrant until last month, when they received information that Baldwin may be in Hawai’i.

The repercussions of yesterday’s arrest of Baldwin were heard as far away as Washington, D.C. where U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, D, Hawai’i, said: “I am shocked and saddened by the news. I have known Gary Baldwin for several years, and I have known him to be a good, contributing citizen.

“He has worked diligently for the economic development of the island. I was stunned by the allegations,” said Inouye.

Inouye credits Baldwin, and Baldwin credits Inouye, for tireless work toward building the island’s high-technology industry.

“Gary Baldwin was a pretty good public citizen in Hawai’i, and served the people of Kaua’i and the state well on the Hawaii Tourism Authority,” said Gov. Ben Cayetano, who appointed Baldwin as the initial Kaua’i and Ni’ihau representative to the HTA board.

“This latest news comes as quite a shock,” said Cayetano.

Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, who appointed Baldwin to two terms on the county Planning Commission, was equally surprised at news of yesterday’s arrest.

“I am shocked. Gary was such an advocate for tourism,” Kusaka said. “I am really speechless at this news.”

As news of the arrest circulated rapidly across the island yesterday, friends at the advice of Lowenthal began a campaign to gather letters of support for Baldwin, to be presented in court today.

Those letters can be faxed to 245-7428.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

Kendyce Manguchei contributed to this report.

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