In November 2014, Honolulu business owner and accused criminal gang leader Michael Miske Jr. blamed then 19-year-old Jonathan Fraser for stealing his gold Rolex watch. Fraser was the best friend of Miske’s only child, Caleb Miske, and the two young men and their girlfriends had been sharing a Waipahu apartment for most of the year.
It is the first indication of bad blood between Miske and Fraser a year before the critical auto accident that led to Caleb’s death, and 20 months before Fraser suddenly disappeared in July 2016. Prosecutors allege Miske directed a murder-for-hire conspiracy that led to Fraser’s kidnapping and death motivated by his mistaken belief that Fraser was driving the car in the fatal accident.
Miske and 10 co-defendants, including 33-year-old Kaulana Freitas, were named in a 22-count indictment in July 2020 alleging they were part of a group that conspired to engage in what prosecutors allege was a pattern of racketeering, including murder, kidnapping, assault, armed robbery, extortion, drug trafficking and bank fraud.
The incident involving the stolen Rolex was publicly disclosed during a federal court hearing Wednesday as Freitas appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson and pleaded guilty as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
In an almost empty courtroom only recently reopened for some in-person hearings, Freitas admitted he had conspired with Miske and others to carry out a range of crimes between 2014 and their arrests in July 2020.
Under the terms of his plea deal, Freitas pleaded guilty to being part of the racketeering organization controlled by Miske, and attacking a Honolulu nightclub with chloropicrin, a toxic chemical used in termite treatments. As part of the deal, he also agreed to testify against Miske and the remaining co-defendants. Freitas was represented by attorney Marc Victor, who handles criminal cases in Hawaii and Arizona.
Another co-defendant, Michael Buntenbah, is scheduled to plead guilty next week as part of a similar plea deal.
Freitas and Buntenbah are the fourth and fifth of Miske’s co-defendants to flip and agree to become prosecution witnesses. Together with those who previously pleaded guilty, half of Miske’s original 10 co-defendants are now cooperating with prosecutors.
In addition, six others who were charged separately have also pleaded guilty to related charges and are cooperating.
Miske and the remaining co-defendants are currently scheduled for trial in September, but it appears almost certain to be delayed again due to the extremely large amount of evidence that is still in the process of being disclosed by the government, as well as legal disputes over omissions in what has been released to date.
The Gold Rolex
On the morning of Nov. 13, 2014, Fraser was beaten by several men, allegedly acting on Miske’s orders, as retribution for the theft of his gold Rolex watch, according to Freitas’ plea agreement.
Fraser later described the incident to his mother, Shelly Miguel.
“They mobbed my son,” she said in a September 2020 telephone interview. “I was told he (Miske) was in the car watching.
“He lost the first front tooth in that beating.”
Fraser told another family member that he and Caleb were both involved in stealing the watch from Mike Miske’s office, and then trying to pawn it. When they were caught, Fraser took the blame and was beaten as a result.
Later that same day, Mike Miske’s younger brother, John Stancil, along with Freitas, then apparently working for Miske’s Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, were sent by Miske to get the watch back, according to Freitas’ plea agreement.
The two met Fraser at Kaneohe District Park, where Freitas, “using the threat of force,” demanded the watch.
Fraser was able to get back into his car and flee, turning onto Kahekili Highway with Stancil in pursuit.
“Fraser was ultimately able to escape and meet with Honolulu police officers to whom he reported the incident,” the plea agreement states.
It is silent on what, if anything, happened to that police report, or if Fraser also met at that time with federal investigators, who were already actively probing Miske’s affairs.
At the time the watch was stolen, Caleb Miske and Jonathan Fraser, along with their girlfriends, had been sharing a unit in the Oasis Waipahu Apartments. But the four young people had fallen behind on their rent, and had recently been sued by the property management company seeking several thousand dollars in back rent, as well as court permission to evict them.
Almost exactly one year later, on Nov. 17, 2015, Caleb Miske and Jonathan Fraser were critically injured in a high-speed crash on Kaneohe Bay Drive alongside Windward City Shopping Center. Their car was later estimated to have been traveling at over 90 mph when it crashed into a pickup truck at an intersection behind the mall. Fraser eventually recovered, but Caleb died in early March 2016 while still hospitalized.
In the aftermath of Caleb’s death, the elder Miske blamed Fraser for the accident, wrongfully accusing him of being behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
On July 30, 2016, Fraser disappeared and is presumed dead. The indictment alleges Miske conspired with others to carry out Fraser’s abduction and murder, including purchasing a 37 1/2-foot Boston Whaler model 370 Outrage named “Painkiller,” valued at $450,000, which prosecutors alleged was to be used to dispose of Fraser’s body at sea.
Caleb’s girlfriend during the time they lived with Fraser in the Waipahu apartment, Delia-Anne Fabro, was later added as a defendant in the July 2021 superseding indictment. She is charged with participating in Miske’s racketeering conspiracy, and committing bank fraud, along with Mike Miske, by participating in the preparation of “materially false” documents as part of applications for loans from Bank of Hawaii.
As part of his plea deal, Freitas also admitted he entered The District, a popular Kapiolani-area nightclub, in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 4, 2017, and poured a toxic chemical used in termite treatments into a wastebasket, sending club patrons running for the exits “with burning in their eyes and difficulty breathing.”
According to the plea agreement, Freitas carried out the attack on Miske’s orders. He said he was driven to the nightclub by Jacob “Jake” Smith, who was charged separately for being part of what prosecutors have dubbed the Miske Enterprise. Smith was arrested on drug charges in mid-2018 and pleaded guilty in November 2020 to racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
Freitas said Smith picked up the chemical from John Stancil, Miske’s brother, at Stancil’s Waimanalo home. During his appearance in court Wednesday afternoon, Freitas said the chemical originally came from Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, also owned by Miske.
Smith has admitted to being the driver the next night when a similar chemical attack targeted Honolulu’s Ginza Nightclub, located in the same area as The District.
In reply to questions from the judge, Freitas said The District was targeted because it was competing with a nearby nightclub Miske owned.
Miske’s M Nightclub was closed in late 2016 after a series of high-profile assaults on patrons resulted in criminal charges, several lawsuits and a crackdown by the Honolulu Liquor Commission. The club quickly reopened in the same location as Encore, which at the time was said to have new management, but which prosecutors allege continued to be controlled by Miske.
Robbery By The Bay
Freitas says he and other members of the Miske Enterprise took part in several robberies between 2015 and 2018.
On May 14, 2016, Freitas, Stancil and several others allegedly set up the robbery of a local drug dealer they suspected of holding a large stash of cash.
After luring him to the Hawaii Kai boat ramp at Maunalua Bay, the men began kicking him, and pistol whipped him in the head, demanding his car keys. According to Freitas’ plea agreement, the men then removed the victim’s pants, “which held the keys along with approximately $7,000 in cash,” and then left the scene in the victim’s car.
“Although Miske did not direct the assault and robbery and, in fact, later chastised the assailants for committing the assault at the Hawaii Kai boat ramp at Maunalua Bay, an area Miske associated with his deceased son, Freitas and the others involved in the assault were emboldened by their association with Miske and the Miske Enterprise and relied on the protection they could count on as Enterprise members,” according to the plea agreement.
In Wednesday’s court hearing, Watson asked whether Freitas believed this victim was unlikely to retaliate because of their association with the Miske Enterprise.
“Yes, your honor,” Freitas replied.
Freitas faces a maximum prison term of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the racketeering conspiracy charge, and up to a life sentence and a fine of up to $250,000 for the chemical weapon attack. Both charges also carry additional periods of supervised release.
However, federal sentencing guidelines are likely to call for sentences well below the maximum in Freitas’ case.
Freitas has been free on bond since Jan. 5, confined to his father’s home in Kailua except for work or a limited number of other activities. The judge said reports have indicated Freitas has had no problem complying with the conditions, and he allowed Freitas to remain free until sentencing under the same conditions and restrictions.