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Pahoa man accused of trying to steal airplane

  • ARJONA MOLINA

A 24-year-old Pahoa man is accused of a brazen daylight attempt to steal an air ambulance from the Hilo International Airport.

Gabriel Arjona Molina, a Venezuelan national who’s been on the Big Island for about two months, is charged with attempted first-degree theft, first-degree property damage, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle and first-degree trespassing.

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According to police, at about 1:30 p.m. Friday, a witness flagged down a Hilo patrol officer and reported a vehicle crashed through the airport fence. The witness told the officer the driver parked next to a fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft, got out of his vehicle and attempted to start the airplane by manually spinning the propeller.

The suspect, police said, then entered a Beechcraft King Air C90A aircraft parked on the ramp via a pull-down hatch and managed to start both engines before getting out of the plane.

Officers arrested Arjona Molina at the scene shortly thereafter.

According to police, the approximate value of the King Air C90A air ambulance is $1.5 million.

Arjona Molina made his initial appearance in Hilo District Court on Monday via a video hookup from the courthouse basement.

Deputy Public Defender Jonas Krave asked Hilo District Judge Jeffrey Hawk to free Arjona Molina on court-supervised release without monetary bail or to reduce bail to $37,000.

Deputy Prosecutor Nathan Wersal objected to the defense motion.

Hawk mainted Arjona Molina’s bail and ordered him to appear for a preliminary hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

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Arjona Molina remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

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

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