HONOLULU — A former Kauai police lieutenant pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing $25,000 in federal grant money from the department.
Karen Kapua, a 20-year veteran of the Kauai Police Department, pleaded guilty to embezzling, stealing and misappropriating money, which included grants from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The theft constituted a violation of federal law because the County of Kauai received federal grants of more than $10,000 annually, including grants from the DEA.
As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss three other charges in the indictment, including money laundering.
United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii Florence Nakakuni said that according to information produced to the court, Kapua admitted cashing a $25,000 check on Dec. 5, 2014, made payable to her by the County of Kauai, and earmarked for vice section operations, and converting the money to her own use, according to a news release by the Department of Justice.
Kapua, in her former position as lieutenant in the Kauai Police Department’s vice section, was authorized to request County of Kauai checks to obtain money to make undercover purchases of narcotics, the release said.
She stole a total of $75,000, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Tong said. Defense attorney Brook Hart said his client has paid full restitution.
The amount and Kapua’s abuse of a position of trust will affect her sentencing guidelines, Tong said. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 31.
Kapua told U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright she didn’t use it for operations purposes, or keep it in a safe at the department.
“It’s pretty vague to me but I do recall making a requisition,” she said.
When Seabright asked her about her mental state before she pleaded guilty, she told him she’s taking prescription medicine, including medication for depression.
“I’m still depressed, but I can think clearly,” she said.
Hart said that while she was a lieutenant, she dealt with health issues and the sudden death of her daughter.
While the feds were investigating the KPD lieutenant for criminal activity, she was involved in a civil lawsuit against a hotel.
On Sept. 11, 2011, Kapua’s 16-year-old daughter, Nahele Kapua was killed in a car accident after the driver of the car she was in ran off the road while speeding well over the 40 mph speed limit.
She lost control of the car and crashed. Kapua’s 16-year-old daughter was ejected from the backseat of the vehicle and died when she hit the floor. It was revealed that the driver of the car had been at a party before and she had been drinking. Her BAC was above the legal limit of .08
She was charged with manslaughter and negligent injury in the first degree and sentenced to one year in jail and 10 years of probation.
Kapua, who is married to retired Sgt. Irvil Kapua, filed a civil lawsuit on Jan. 23 2013 against Aston Hotels & Resorts claiming the hotel contributed to the car accident by allowing an underage drinking party to continue on its premises on Sept. 10 and 11, 2011.
Her alleged criminal activity began on Dec. 23, 2013, according to the four-page indictment.
Kapua was originally charged in a January 2016 indictment with stealing a total of $75,000 from the County of Kauai on three separate dates between Dec. 23, 2013 and Dec. 5, 2014, and with laundering the proceeds of one of the theft offenses by making a $11,457.98 wire transfer to pay off her debts.
Kapua faces a term of imprisonment of up to 10 years, a fine of $250,000 and restitution by Chief US District Judge Seabright.
Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry told the Associated Press he was hopeful that the public would “view this as an isolated incident and not a reflection of the department as a whole.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.