Coco Palms occupiers have 5 days to leave

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    Observers crowd into a courtroom Tuesday afternoon to hear closing arguments in the nearly two-month-long land dispute that was heard in District Court regarding the ejectment of a group of occupiers at the Coco Palms Resort site in Wailua.

LIHUE — District Court Judge Michael Soong ruled in favor of development company Coco Palms Hui on Tuesday and ousted a group that has claimed interest in a plot of land in Wailua for nearly a year.

The Native Hawaiian occupiers have five days — until 6 p.m. Sunday — to leave the land.

There were two issues for the court to decide, Soong said. The first was whether the plaintiffs, Tyler Greene and Chad Waters, had the right to an ejectment action and, secondly, whether the defendants have the right to occupy the property.

A special warranty deed held by the plaintiffs encompasses all of the property except for the state lease, Soong said. The plaintiffs also have a current lease with the state.

“So as for the first issue, the court finds that they have a right to obtain an ejectment action,” Soong said.

There was little reaction in the crowded courtroom to the decision.

During the trial, co-defendants Noa Mau-Espirito and Kamu “Charles” Hepa argued they had a right to be on the land through a Supreme Court ruling that said natives have a right to use land for cultural and religious purposes.

Soong said the occupation of the property does not in this case exercise the native tenants rights outlined in the Supreme Court ruling.

“Those rights are the right to access to enter another person’s property to hunt, gather, exercise traditional religious and cultural practices,” Soong said. “What the defendants are exercising in this case is much more akin to adverse possession of another person’s property.”

During closing arguments, Wayne Nasser, attorney for the plaintiffs, argued his client identified his possession of a warranty deed, title search and report of insurance, and that was sufficient evidence of ownership.

“He also testified that he had a state lease,” Nasser said. “Mr. Greene testified one more thing, that he asked the tenants to leave and they refused.”

Mau-Espirito argued about errors in the title search, asking for the case to be dismissed and for Coco Palms to be ejected.

“They don’t have a clear title to the land,” he said. “Mr. Nasser and Mr. Greene are being held responsible for pillaging Hawaiian lands.”

Hepa argued that a crime was committed 125 years ago.

“This crime was never allowed to come before the seat of justice — yet,” he said.

For Hawaiians, the land is sacred, with ancient hale, a fish pond and a coconut grove. There have been ancient burial plots found on the land, they said in court. All are significant to the cultural and religious practices of the Kanaka Maoli nation.

The hotel was featured in Elvis Presley’s movie “Blue Hawaii,” and hosted many celebrities.

Kauai’s own musical legend Larry Rivera got his start decades ago at Coco Palms, first as a dishwasher, working his way up to become one of Kauai’s premiere entertainers.

“I just want Coco Palms back,” Rivera said as he testified on behalf of the plaintiffs in court.

The hotel has been shuttered since it was damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, laying in waste since then, deteriorating to its current post-apocalyptic state. The matter of ownership has come up during public meetings over the years but no one claimed the land.

There have been several attempts by developers to restore the property, but all have been thwarted for various reasons.

Since 2012, Waters and Greene of Coco Palms Hui have been trying to develop the property, with initial plans to begin phase II of the renovation and reconstruction scheduled for early spring.

The $175 million project will boast about 400 rooms, 12,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants, leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center.

Nearly a year ago, a group of Native Hawaiian occupiers, fronted by Mau-Espirito and Hepa, moved onto a portion of the property, claiming interest in the land through a royal patent and ancestry.

The day’s proceedings started with Noa Mau-Espirito asking for the case to be rescinded due to an incident on Monday when Greene, accompanied by Dayne Gonsalves, king of the Kingdom of Atooi, came onto the property.

The incident, he said, hindered him and Hepa from filing some paperwork in court because they had to wait for the police to file a report.

“I was sworn it was court orders we have to stay away from each other until the court case is called,” Mau-Espirito said.

The incident, Mau-Espirito said, distracted them from preparing for their final day of court.

Nasser, of Ashton &Wriston LLP, said Greene, accompanied by a group of people, toured the property Monday to figure out where everybody was.

“Apparently, they were first greeted by Mr. Hepa and the group, and then strong words followed,” Nasser said. “I’m not sure you can call it ‘threatening,’ but strong words followed.”

Nasser told the court he wasn’t certain who started the verbal confrontation.

“The fact of the matter is, we are enjoined from essentially doing anything to the land. The land. We’re not enjoined from going on the land,” Nasser said.

In his rebuttal, Mau-Espirito maintained that Greene and Gonzales came to them in a threatening manner and asked for the case to be continued, so they could prepare their closing arguments.

Nasser said he didn’t mind if the case was continued after Greene’s cross-examination and any witness testimony was heard.

During his testimony, Greene said they did not enter the property through the bushes Monday, rather the tennis courts from the main section of the property.

“The gate that you guys have overtaken is not the main entrance and exit to the property,” Greene said.

If there were crimes committed, Soong said that matter would be handled by the police.

“They’re certainly entitled to enter the property that they claim ownership of,” Soong said, continuing the trial, giving them time in the afternoon to work on their closing arguments.

After issuing his ruling, Soong commended Mau-Espirito and Hepa for the work they were doing to preserve the Hawaiian culture and religion. He said he hopes they continue on with their efforts, but in accordance with the law.

22 Comments
  1. Reverend Malama Robinson January 24, 2018 5:36 am Reply

    Micheal Doing is a failure to the justice system.
    Due process was not followed nor impartiality.
    The judge erred in fact and on the preponderance of the evidence and showed no knowledge of the law or rules guiding civil disputes.


  2. Reverend Malama Robinson January 24, 2018 5:38 am Reply

    Correction…. Micheal Soong


  3. Sunrise_blue January 24, 2018 6:58 am Reply

    Not surprising or surprised of the outcome?

    They couldn’t show any other proof of land ownership. I think some people may have been clouded by the issues. I thouught the Hawaiians own the land.

    Nothing special are former athletes in government. e.g. High school sports or college was their predominantly past record. Last week was the first day of the opening of the legislative session. At the state capitol. It seems to me peoole in this category and on TV, are wipe outs. I am not sure what their whole business in government is all about. At least the Hawaiians were not with this status group individuals. Yet the Hawaiians couldn’t prove they owned the land at Coco Palms hotel.

    Another good article T.G.I.


  4. Sunrise_blue January 24, 2018 7:14 am Reply

    Because Bernard p. Carvalho jr. has poor writing skills. And no government officials wants to know him in office. Truth…


  5. Sunrise_blue January 24, 2018 7:28 am Reply

    Because i’m better than that argument’s rebuttal.

    Whatever?

    Degree…smarter……..nerds…richer…?


  6. jake liggett January 24, 2018 7:42 am Reply

    An excellent decision by the court. Something needed to reinforce the idea that property isn’t yours just because you say it is. Get a job, earn your bucks, and buy the land you want just like the rest of us.


  7. eric January 24, 2018 7:45 am Reply

    Clowns!


  8. Sunrise_blue January 24, 2018 8:14 am Reply

    I changed my mind. Not voting for Hanabusa. Governor in 2018. Because of Bernard p. Carvalho jr.


  9. Sunrise_blue January 24, 2018 8:23 am Reply

    Who is Dayne Gonzalves? Waimea high school 1981. He played high school football. All his life was football.

    I never knew or heard of him. Decline for me here on the internet. Not know him.

    What is this about? If he is the guy, then what for?


  10. Steve Martin January 24, 2018 8:41 am Reply

    Finally justice served! Ok guys do what nobody has been able to do over the last 25 years, bring it back and while you are add it, make sure to fix the road and traffic issues fronting the Wailua corridor! With $175 million for the project there is no reason you should not be able to cover all the issues of the area. A walk over pedestrian access in the middle of the resort would give access to the shell restaurant, and both signals,which would bring a far better flow for the traffic through the area.


  11. Sunrise_blue January 24, 2018 8:42 am Reply

    And stop pinpointing my real name over facebook. This island is small. It is not that hard to deduce a name on this small island. Math and statistics.

    Notice I am Sunrise_blue. Name: blogger.


  12. Sunrise_blue January 24, 2018 9:28 am Reply

    Just visit facebook. I can ruin Bernard’s run for Lt. Governor by showing how stupid that office would be. All his buddies growing up. Include Lance Tominaga and his book Rise Of The Rainbow Warriors, copyright 2017. All crap evidence.


  13. Sunrise_blue January 24, 2018 9:51 am Reply

    Well, does Bernard p. Carvalho jr. REPRESENT you at the county government and getting paid? Meaning more money than you. If so, only you don’t agree with me not voting for Bernard.

    14%. Not a lot. Just you sports fans who felt violated by him running for mayor, now Lt. Governor.

    No one knows who he was here. And what for?


  14. Wallace Pfeifer January 24, 2018 1:04 pm Reply

    Quit fighting like a bunch of Republicans and Democrats. Get the Coco Palms started and get the tourist’s dollars coming in. Nobody makes any money this way.


  15. KawikaW January 24, 2018 2:02 pm Reply

    Wow, Sunrise_Blue. You are really giving Haole Debra a run for the money in the incoherent random gibberish category. I honestly know 4yr olds with better grammar. How do you expect anyone to take you serious or even comprehend what your attempting to say? Please stop eating the Tide Pods.


  16. Paid2Talk January 24, 2018 6:32 pm Reply

    Dayne called you guys out. Saying you needed to get your facts straight. (we’ve watched the video on Hepa’s page) You guys hear what you want and pick out what you like and ignore the rest. Selective listening. Judge Soong told you guys about adverse possession, but you didn’t want to hear it. It’s not your property, never was. He explained about the rights to come and go on UN-DEVELOPED land. Coco Palms is considered developed and the other land leased to them by the State of Hawaii. It doesn’t get much clearer. And Sunrise_blue what in the world are you talking about, we can’t even follow your nonsense? Are you related to Debra coco-nuts?


  17. Priceless January 24, 2018 9:39 pm Reply

    The people squatting there should get a job. They not doing nothing but talking. What have they done to that place since they took over? Absolutely nothing but sit there and camp out. All they think about is themself and nobody else. Coco palms can give this community jobs so we can survive loving here on this beautiful island.


  18. My two cents January 24, 2018 10:51 pm Reply

    Anyone who considers dane Gonzales a king has a weak mind..


  19. Fathom January 25, 2018 7:31 pm Reply

    THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS AS THEY APPEAR!

    Coco Palms Hyatt Resort developers have solicited investment loans of $500,000 each from as many as 172 wealthy Foreign Nationals, in exchange for automatic Green Cards and a direct path to U.S. Citizenship for these rich investors and each of their family members. This EB-5 Visas are often referred to as “Golden Visas’ for this reason.

    This Coco Palms Application, in the link below, shows how $86 million (2/3’s of the budget) for the 12,000 sq.’ Hyatt Resort was being raised through wealthy Foreign Nationals in exchange for Green Cards and a path to U.S. Citizenship for them and their family.

    These types of insured $500,000 ‘investment loans’ from wealthy foreign investors are happening all over Kaua`i, Hawai`i, and the United States of America —

    “The proposal identifies the new commercial enterprise (“NCE”) of the project as Lexden Coco Palms Loan Company, LLC, which was formed in the State of Delaware on January 31, 2014. The project is located at 4-947 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa, on the island of Kauai in the State of Hawaii. 172 immigrant investors will subscribe to the NCE as limited partners in exchange for capital contributions of $500,000 each and an aggregate of $86 million. The NCE will loan the $86 million of EB-5 capital to a third-party entity, Coco Palms Resort. The EB-5 capital loan proceeds will be used to acquire and re-launch The Coco Palm Resort as the Coco Palms by Hyatt in Kauai.”

    http://www.cocopalmseb5.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Approval_Lexden_Hawaii.pdf

    The problem is, not even the U.S. Government is able to verify the true identities of these wealthy investors and their families, nor are they actually able to validate where this money comes from. That is why investors a National Security threat for us all. Here is a report from the United States Government Accountability Office —

    “The report concluded that because of difficulties ensuring the integrity of the Regional Center Program, USCIS was limited in its ability to prevent fraud or national security threats and could not demonstrate that the program was benefiting the U.S. economy and creating full-time employment as required by law.”

    “USCIS has identified fraud and national security risks in the EB-5 Program in various assessments it conducted over time and in collaboration with its interagency partners.”

    “Specifically, a senior FDNS official noted that while adjudication of petitions in the EB-5 Program, like other immigration programs, centers on the eligibility of the petitioner, the EB-5 Program also has an investment component that creates increased program complexity and the potential for fraud risks.”

    “However, according to USCIS officials, it can be difficult to verify the sources of immigrant investors’ funds and such verification difficulties could pose fraud risks to the program. For example, USCIS officials told us that some petitioners may have strong incentives to report inaccurate information about the source of their funds on their applications in instances when the funds come from illicit—and thus ineligible—sources, such as funds obtained through drug trade, human trafficking, or other criminal activities.”

    “USCIS officials said that IPO and FDNS did not have a means to verify self-reported immigrant financial information with many foreign banks. In addition, both USCIS and State officials noted that they did not have authority to verify banking information with many foreign countries. For example, State officials said that because the U.S. government lacks access to many foreign financial systems, there is no reliable method to verify the source of the funds of petitioners.”

    “Legitimacy of investment entity – The amount of investment required to participate in the EB-5 Program, coupled with the fact that EB-5 investors are making an investment in order to obtain an immigration benefit, can create fraud risks tied to unscrupulous regional center operators and intermediaries. According to SEC officials, they have identified instances of fraudulent investment schemes, including securities fraud, related to EB-5 investments.”

    https://www.gao.gov/assets/680/671940.pdf

    This ‘Advisory’ from the ‘U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’ (FinCEN) one of many reasons the Lexden-Coco Palms Loan Company’s statement about their EB-5 Visa program, which allows wealthy Foreign Nationals to receive an automatic ‘Green Card’ for investing in this Hyatt Resort development, concerns me so much —

    “Although FinCEN to date has focused on residential real estate, money laundering can also involve commercial real estate transactions.”

    “Real estate transactions and the real estate market have certain characteristics that make them vulnerable to abuse by illicit actors seeking to launder criminal proceeds. For example, many
    real estate transactions involve high-value assets, opaque entities, and processes that can limit transparency because of their complexity and diversity. In addition, the real estate market can be an attractive vehicle for laundering illicit gains because of the manner in which it appreciates in value, “cleans” large sums of money in a single transaction, and shields ill-gotten gains from market instability and exchange-rate fluctuations. For these reasons and others, drug traffickers, corrupt offcials, and other criminals can and have used real estate to conceal the existence and origins of their illicit funds.”

    “FinCEN’s analysis of BSA and GTO reported data, law enforcement information, and real estate deed records, as depicted by the case studies in this advisory, indicates that high-value residential real estate markets are vulnerable to penetration by foreign and domestic criminal organizations and corrupt actors, especially those misusing otherwise legitimate limited liability companies or other legal entities to shield their identities. In addition, when these transactions are conducted without any financing (i.e., “all-cash”), they can potentially avoid traditional anti-money laundering (AML) measures adopted by lending financial institutions, presenting increased risk.”

    “Money laundering is a crime orchestrated to conceal the source of illegal proceeds so that the money can be used without detection of its criminal source.”

    “Use of Shell Companies Decreases Transparency – Criminals launder money to obscure the illicit origin of their funds. To this end, money launderers can use a number of vehicles to reduce the transparency of their transactions. One such vehicle, highlighted in the below case study, is the use of shell companies. Shell companies are typically non-publicly traded corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), or trusts that have no physical presence beyond a mailing address and generate little to no independent economic value.Most shell companies are formed by individuals and businesses for legitimate purposes, such as to hold stock or assets of another business entity or to facilitate domestic and international currency trades, asset transfers, and corporate mergers. Shell companies can often be formed without disclosing the individuals that ultimately own or control them (i.e., their beneficial owners) and can be used to conduct financial transactions without disclosing their true beneficial owners’ involvement. Criminals abuse this anonymity to mask their identities, involvement in transactions, and origins of their wealth, hindering law enforcement efforts to identify individuals behind illicit activity.”

    “Criminals can use all-cash purchases to make payments in full for properties and evade scrutiny— on themselves and the origin of their wealth—that is regularly performed by financial institutions in transactions involving mortgages. All-cash transactions account for nearly one in four residential real estate purchases, totaling hundreds of billions of dollars nationwide, and are particularly exposed to abuse.”

    The entire FinCEN report can be read at this link —

    https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/advisory/2017-08-22/Risk%20in%20Real%20Estate%20Advisory_FINAL%20508%20Tuesday%20%28002%29.pdf

    Here is how another Kaua`i resort development is soliciting these EB-5 investment loans to wealthy Foreign Nationals —

    http://www.sihl.in/pdf/hyatt-coconut-beach-resort-hawaii.pdf

    By May of 2016, funding for the Coco Palms Hyatt Resort being raised through the EB-5 Visa program was solicited to as many as 172 foreign investors, in exchange for Green Cards and a path to Citizenship for each $500,000 investor — $86 million total.

    As this 2015 column explains —

    “WHAT’S REALLY AT STAKE IN THE EB-5 INVESTOR VISA OVERHAUL: HONESTY”

    “Through the EB-5 visa program, wealthy foreigners can invest $500,000 to $1 million in development projects and in turn, receive green cards for themselves and family members if the investment can be shown to create 10 U.S. jobs. The program is now up for Congressional reauthorization.”

    “The ability to monetize a scarce public asset — access to the United States — has become a gravy train for developers seeking cheap loans, immigration attorneys, China-based migration agencies and federally-authorized investment packagers known as regional centers.”

    “The profits at stake prompt deceptive practices — both in marketing investments and claiming job creation — that distort the intent if not the letter of the law.”

    “But claiming that EB-5 investments create jobs at no expense to the taxpayer is bogus. It’s also why an expected compromise regarding reauthorization of EB-5 falls short, despite improvements to the program.”

    “The green card alchemizes profits. Think about it: As long they get green cards, the immigrant investors don’t really care about interest and will take a 1 percent return. Meanwhile, the entrepreneurs getting the loan are eager to pay the regional center 5 to 8 percent as opposed to 12 percent they might have to pay on the open market.”

    “Yes, it’s unseemly that green cards can be acquired so cheaply. And I say cheaply, because remember, investors are not giving up $500,000; they’re just parking it for five years or so, and the major cost is foregone interest and fees.”

    “The Government Accountability Office this year concluded that the agency overseeing EB-5, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, could not validly analyze job creation. After all, projects financed through regional centers don’t require a headcount of employees. An economist’s report, which calculates not only direct jobs, but also indirect and induced jobs caused by spending, can suffice.”

    “One of the oddities about the EB-5 program is that the U.S. government is giving out the green cards, but the entrepreneur who puts together the investment gets the money. This scheme seems inefficient and open to corruption.”

    “EB-5 represents “corporate welfare” for certain businesses.”

    “In a modest reform, the new legislation mandates that one of the 10 required jobs be a direct job, validated with a head count.

    “So the EB-5 industry will still benefit from rules that allow them to credit immigrant investors for jobs created by the entire pot of money.”

    “In other words, the immigrant investors got credit for jobs financed by public subsidies and government-authorized tax-free bonds, funding that was already in place, not leveraged by the EB-5 investment.”

    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/column-whats-really-at-stake-in-the-eb-5-investor-visa-overhaul-honesty

    We have to Wake Up to the reality that this is happening all over Hawai`i — not not only through the Coco Palms Hyatt Resort developers, but Everywhere!
    .


  20. Reverend Malama Robinson January 28, 2018 8:48 pm Reply

    Thank you Fathom….

    I read the new York Times recent report and concur….

    The kaka is hitting the fan folks and this is NOT A FALSE ALARM


  21. Paid2Talk January 29, 2018 12:51 pm Reply

    Fathom
    Copy and paste
    Copy and paste
    Copy and paste
    Anyone can do that


  22. Fathom January 30, 2018 1:40 pm Reply

    Facts are Facts.


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