FBI raids Na Leo offices in Hilo

  • Photo by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A federal agent walks toward Mohouli Street while two others enter Na Leo TV in Hilo on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald A federal agent stands outside Na Leo TV on Thursday in Hilo.

Few details were available late Thursday following an FBI raid earlier in the day at Na Leo ‘O Hawaii’s TV studios and offices in Hilo.

Jason White, a special agent at the FBI’s Honolulu office, confirmed Thursday morning that a search warrant was being executed at Na Leo’s location at 91 Mohouli St., but he declined to say why agents searched the premises or what they were seeking.

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“The case is ongoing. We’re not going to give out any details other than confirming it is us,” White said.

Asked if Na Leo’s Kona office also was being searched, White replied, “We have a warrant for just the one Big Island location.”

In addition, White said “a number of properties” on Oahu were searched in connection with the investigation, but he declined to specify the property owner or owners or the types of properties.

The scene at Na Leo was relatively low key during the raid. The presence of an unmarked silver sport-utility vehicle blocking the parking lot and a few casually dressed agents sporting badges on lanyards were the only cues a search was being conducted there.

Asked if the search had anything to do with federal funding or if anyone was arrested during the raid, White said it’s “just a search” and said other details might be forthcoming at a later time.

Lt. Rio Amon-Wilkins of the Hawaii Police Department’s Hilo Criminal Investigations Section said county police had not been notified about the federal raid.

The president and CEO of Na Leo is Stacy Higa, a former Hawaii County councilman who finished fifth in a crowded mayoral primary election race in August. He did not return requests from the Tribune-Herald seeking comment.

Micah Alameda, assistant general manager and marketing director of Na Leo, said in a written statement Thursday that “Na Leo TV staff and management are fully cooperating” with investigators.

“We have no further comment or information at this time,” Alameda said.

In the statement, Alameda said a Puna candidates’ forum scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday — featuring mayoral candidates Mitch Roth and Ikaika Marzo and the candidates for Hawaii County Council District 5, incumbent Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder and challenger Ikaika Rodenhurst — was canceled.

“We are working with the Mainstreet Pahoa Association to reschedule this broadcast,” Alameda said.

“I regret we weren’t able to do the forum (Thursday) night,” said Roth, Hawaii County’s prosecutor. “However, we’ve done several forums, and many of them can be found online.”

“I just talked to the Puna candidate forum officials,” said Marzo, who became a public figure by posting Facebook Live lava updates during the 2018 Kilauea volcano eruption.

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“We will be doing it another day,” he said. “So it’s just rescheduling, so we’re just figuring out another time. It’ll be in the next three or four days.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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