17 Sep. – A man and woman who pleaded guilty to federal charges resulting from the gun robbery at an illegal Nanakuli gambling house known as the Mermaid’s Game Room more than two years ago were sentenced Wednesday.
A man and woman who pleaded guilty to federal charges over the armed robbery of an illegal Nanakuli gambling house known as the Mermaid’s Game Room more than two years ago were sentenced Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway sentenced Makoa KF Wilson, 27, to seven years and 10 months in prison, while Jessica R. Lorrin, 31, received a 4-1/2 year sentence. Under a plea deal with the government in March, the couple pleaded guilty to the robbery and dismissed three drug and firearms charges.
“Illegal gambling causes many problems in our community, including violent crimes committed by gang members and involving firearms,” US Attorney Clare Connors said in a press release.
Two Waianae Coast community leaders say Wilson and Lorrin were petty crime figures and law enforcement should crack down on the operators of illegal gambling businesses they say are proliferating in the area.
“There are three near my house,” said Philip Ganaban, a board member of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood, whose family has lived in Makaha for generations. “They are here and are constantly being robbed. They are being robbed by friends or acquaintances.”
He said the games rooms stand out from the rest of the neighborhood because they are mostly boarded up houses with graffiti that appear to be abandoned, but where people hang out at odd hours.
“Why don’t you charge the playroom operators?” asked Ganban.
He said Honolulu police should respond to complaints about “traffic, people hanging out until odd hours, increasing petty theft,” as well as that gamblers are also stealing from nearby garages.
Earlier this year, Honolulu police raided three gaming rooms in Palolo, Kalihi and Liliha and seized dozens of slot machines. HPD said 50 to 80 such Oahu branches are operating on any given day, and police closed 45 of them in the first 10 months of 2021.
Owners of such properties are notified that Hawaii law allows the state attorney general, prosecutors, and individuals to file lawsuits to mitigate or prevent nuisance.
In the case of the Nanakuli game room robbery that occurred in the early morning hours of July 15, 2020, Wilson, who was identified by the US Attorney’s Office as a member of a gang known at the time as Murder Inc., and Lorrin, are accomplice, entered the single-storey residence on the makai side of Keaulana Avenue, one of two houses on a half-acre lot.
The two defendants played video slots before carrying out the robbery, with Wilson pointing at the cashier with what appeared to be a gun and demanding all the money in the office, according to authorities. When she returned with the money, he wondered why there was so little money. The cashier then gave him a bag she was carrying with most of the money.
Wilson demanded and received the keys to the slot machines, and Lorrin used them to open the machines and collect the money, the federal complaint said. The couple then fled in a white Yukon vehicle with about $4,000.
On August 18, 2020, the two were apprehended in the Yukon and Wilson was found in possession of methamphetamine and a “ghost rifle,” an untraceable firearm that can be purchased online and assembled at home.
“Ghost guns in particular pose a threat to Hawaii and are increasingly popping up in our investigations, which we will continue to pursue seriously,” Connors said in the press release.
Tiana Wilbur, Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board Vice Chair and Republican nominee for House District 45, said, “It’s so puzzling how this (gambling) equipment is getting into our state.” She said she would like the state to better control what is sent.
Wilbur claimed the area has the highest homeless population on Oahu, in part because some homeless people have moved to Waianae from Chinatown and other areas where they are under pressure to disperse. “That’s why there is an increase in crime and homelessness,” she said.
On the gang aspect, Ganaban said the authorities are making it sound “like they are big gangsters, but they are small soldiers and not the ones who control this.”
“We don’t have any major problems with gangs,” he said. “A lot of these people are just friends who grew up together” and got into trouble with drugs and crime, turning to gangs to shelter them.
“These kids need good leadership, good guidance,” Ganaban said. “They’re lost. Their parents are trying to earn a living, so the kids take care of themselves and are influenced by the people who have money.”
Ganaban said that Murder Inc. historically was “a bunch of notorious killers from Waianae”.
“This is the new generation, people who were related by family to these individuals of the past” and later divided into two groups.
HPD and Homeland Security Investigations, which were investigating the game room robbery, did not answer Honolulu Star-Advertiser calls for comment.