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Wednesday, April 3, 2024
The Secret History of the Mercado Kim Crime Family
By Andrew Walden @ 9:48 PM :: 8395 Views :: Ethics, Gambling, Hawaii History, Police, Politicians, Drugs

The Secret History of the Mercado Kim Crime Family

by Andrew Walden

John Sayin Kim’s exploding Cadillac Eldorado, January 13, 1967, sent shockwaves radiating out through Hawaii’s underworld from Chinatown’s Puahi Street.  

Though Kim’s legs were mangled, a retaliatory hit on then-boss Yobo Chung, July 14, 1967, made Kim Godfather of Hawaii organized crime—at least for a while. 

Hawai’i Free Press asked Sayin’s niece, Senator Donna Mercado Kim, age 15 at the time of the blast, if the explosion was an important turning point in her early life.

She didn’t respond.  But in a promotional video for her abortive 2018 congressional campaign, Kim explains: “I went to college because I had my own desire based on the fact that I wanted a better life.” 

Sayin wasn’t the only criminal Kim.

Mercado Kim’s father was Sayin’s brother, Andrew Young Ho Kim, a 1946 boxing champion.  Mercado Kim describes him: “My dad worked days as a carpenter….  (he) was very ‘kolohe’ and he was gone most of the time.  He really didn’t have a lot of time to spend with the kids.”    

Another Mercado Kim uncle, retired boxer Philip S ‘Wildcat’ Kim, was found shot to death in a Los Angeles parking garage, October 2, 1958, “a victim of what the police believed to have been narcotics gang warfare.”  The case remains unsolved.

Shortly after divorcing Sayin, his ex-wife, Leilani Castro Kim, was found murdered in a bathtub in room 230 of the Kona Hilton Hotel, August 1, 1978.  The case remains unsolved.  Bizarrely, her “find a grave memorial” incorrectly lists her as the wife of Eark K H Kim—a gangster from a different Kim crime family who had been jailed since 1975.  

Mercado Kim’s sister, Vernale Sue Kim-Drake, described as ‘bipolar,’ died in March, 2015, after a fall from the bank of the Wainaku River in Hilo.

‘Yakuza’ is Japanese for ‘Coincidence’

Uncle Sayin didn’t last long as Godfather.  He was soon deposed by Alema Leota and sent off to Hilo.  Apparently he just kept going east.  The Chicago Tribune November 11, 1986 explains:

Authorities also suspect the Yakuza of smuggling large quantities of cocaine and amphetamines into the city from Honolulu, through an operation headed by Richard and George Kaneshiro, of Las Vegas, 51-year-old cousins and frequent travelers to the West Coast and Hawaii.

Law enforcement sources say the Kaneshiros, both naturalized U.S. citizens, are associates of John Sayin Kim, 56, a reputed boss of organized crime in Hawaii.

Federal agents and police in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Chicago are investigating the possibility that 20 murders, six of them here since 1982, have been committed by people associated with the Kaneshiros.

Also in 1986, Mercado Kim’s then-husband, Robert Aiu, at the time Hawaii’s top DEA investigator, blew what Civil Beat calls, “a high-profile case against Japanese yakuza that … resulted in three embarrassing acquittals.  The yakuza boss called the agents who investigated him ‘dumb.’”

Yakuza.  1986.  What a coincidence.

Robert Aiu’s cousin Thomas Aiu, at the time also a DEA agent, was nominated to become HPD Chief in 2009 and 2017.  Judge Steven Alm revealed in 2017 the feds had since 1993 a policy of not calling Aiu as a witness.   Civil Beat reports: “in 1994, about a year after (the) policy of not allowing Aiu to be a witness in criminal cases was implemented, the DEA suspended Aiu for 40 days for unauthorized use of a government vehicle, misuse of office and improper association with a confidential informant, according to a summary of an appellate court ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ultimately upheld the 40-day suspension.”

In 1999 Robert and Thomas Aiu cried ‘racism’ as Clinton-era DEA officials pushed them out of the agency.  Even with Dan Inouye running interference, they were both ultimately ousted.

Tommy Aiu is also connected to convicted felon Louis Kealoha’s pet Police Commission Chair Max Sword, but this fact was hidden from Commissioners during the 2017 chief selection process.  HNN reports: “Former federal agent Tommy Aiu was the top scoring candidate of seven finalists for Honolulu police chief. When he learned that he was a finalist, he went to the City Ethics Commission on September 11th to disclose that he's a first cousin to Mona Wood-Sword, the wife of Police Commission chair Max Sword.  Chairman Max Sword was told by ethics officials he should disclose the relationship, but he did not tell his fellow commissioners during a key meeting.”

Sword is now facing trial on federal conspiracy charges related to Kealoha’s illegal contract buyout.

  *   *   *

After a stint in the late 1970s as ‘Girl Friday’ working out of the 1750 Kalakaua Avenue headquarters of Century Center developer Leroy Robert Allen, himself a former numbers runner and smuggler, Donna Mercado Kim began running for office.  Wikipedia lists the result:

  • From 1982 to 1984, Kim was a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives.
  • From 1986 to 2000, Kim served on the Honolulu City Council.[3]
  • Elected to the Senate in 2000, Kim has chaired the Committee on Tourism, the Committee on Ways and Means, the Special Committee on Accountability, and the Task Force on Reinventing Government.
  • From 2003 to 2008 and again from 2011 to 2013, Kim served as Vice President of the Senate.
  • In 2013, Kim became President of the Hawaii Senate, replacing Shan Tsutsui who left the position to become Lieutenant Governor.[4] Kim's tenure as President of the Senate ended in 2015.[5]
  • In 2014, Kim ran for congress to fill the vacated seat of U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.[6] She lost the race to Mark Takai.[7]
  • In 2018, Kim once again ran for 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, as she was running for governor, but lost to former congressman Ed Case.[8]

Today, Kim chairs the Senate Higher Education committee, a position which allows her to pressure UH over the Aloha Stadium boondoggle.

Kim’s son, Micah Po'okela Kim Aiu, finally did go to UH Law school in 2013--a year after lying to his mommy about it.  After graduating, he got the kind of job all brand new lawyers get--general counsel for Nan Inc--where he today 'earns' $100-150K per year.  In 2022, he was elected to ‘represent’ HD32, encompassing Aloha Stadium.  Nan Inc, led by convicted bid-rigging felon Patrick Shin, is a partner in the 'Wailoa' group competing to redesign Aloha Stadium.

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