Identity theft convict sentenced to 30 years

Debra Barayuga
9/8/2007 – A Honolulu man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for stealing the identity and land belonging to Kauai businessman John Elwin, who was found killed in the Philippines in 2006.

Circuit Judge Michael Town granted the state’s motion yesterday to have Henry Ponce Jacinto Calucag Jr. serve a 20-year term for first-degree identity theft, then a 10-year term for using a computer in the commission of a separate crime.

Calucag, 58, also known as Hank Jacinto, was also ordered to serve a mandatory minimum term of six years and eight months as a repeat offender.

Calling Elwin, 51, “an all-around good guy,” Town said the series of crimes that Calucag perpetuated “makes no sense whatsoever.”

“People are asking, What could Mr. Calucag been thinking?” Town said.

A Circuit Court jury had found Calucag guilty in June of eight felony counts. They found he had forged a warranty deed to steal title to Elwin’s Kauai property valued at $265,000 and had used Elwin’s credit cards to purchase polo equipment just weeks after his death.

Friends and family members described Elwin, who once owned a successful paint store, as a decent, hard-working friend and brother who loved horses, life and his family, especially his only child, Jenny.

Before he disappeared in May 2006 while on a trip to the Philippines with Calucag, he had set in motion plans to build a home on his Kauai property so his daughter could live with him.

John Elwin and Calucag had met 12 years earlier while playing polo. They had left for the Philippines reportedly because Elwin, who loved to travel, planned to purchase a condo in the same building as Calucag.

“Hank took what John spent his life building for Jenny,” said sister-in-law Kristi Elwin. Elwin’s family and friends described Calucag as a deceitful, calculating con man and a coward.

“This has been a tragic and incredibly painful year for our family,” said brother Chris Elwin.

DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Henry Calucag, left, talked with his attorney, Mark Kawata, yesterday before he was sentenced for assuming the identity of John Elwin, who was killed in the Philippines.

Deputy prosecutor Chris Van Marter called the 30-year term a “substantial” sentence for identity theft and credit card fraud. “I think the sentence sends a strong message of deterrence to others who would contemplate committing identity theft or document fraud scams in the state of Hawaii.”
Calucag previously spent eight months in federal prison for a 1995 bank fraud conviction and was later returned to prison to serve an additional 16 months after he engaged in deceptive conduct while on supervised release.

Elwin’s family said the sentence was fair, and expressed hope that his murderer be brought to justice. “I hope the agencies continue with the investigation and we find out who murdered John,” Chris Elwin said.

Law enforcement officials have confirmed that Calucag is a suspect in Elwin’s murder. “He’s the one who had every incentive to be involved,” said Van Marter.

Law enforcement here and in the Philippines is assisting prosecutors in solving Elwin’s death and has made significant progress, he said.

“America’s Most Wanted” featured Elwin and the Calucag connection in a November story, resulting in more witnesses coming forward and more evidence being uncovered, he said.

Law enforcement is also looking into the disappearance of two other Honolulu men who were business associates of Calucag. In one case, Calucag allegedly obtained a fraudulent $250,000 promissory note.

Defense attorney Mark Kawata, who argued that Calucag was not convicted in connection with Elwin’s death, said the sentence was “somewhat expected given the publicity.” Calucag, who declined to speak at his sentencing, is appealing his conviction.

A civil suit filed by the Elwin estate against Calucag to return the Kauai property and $246,000 to its rightful owner is pending.

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