In times of tragedy, there will always be someone who takes advantage of those in need. While most of the people on Kauai have come together to help each other, one well-known surfer and fisherman has been arrested for alleged extortion, robbery and terroristic threatening. Many in the community, however, are fighting back against the allegations.
According to police, Stephen Koehne was arrested after he and several others posed as rescuers for people trapped by the flooding on Kauai. “The boat operators would pull up on the shore and invite people onto the boat, with the idea they would carry them over to by where the St. Regis Hotel is, to get them to a place of safety,” said Kauai Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar. Then, when they were about 200 yards offshore, the would-be rescuers demanded money before going any farther. “Once we were out in the middle of the ocean,” Liana Leaulii told Hawaii News Now, “they were like, ‘Did so-and-so on the beach tell you it was $200 a head on the boat?'”
Multiple reports have surfaced of the extortion and prosecutors are actively investigating them. “We’re not going to tolerate these type of extortion (attempts) of any visitors or locals,” said assistant Chief Bryson Ponce of the Kauai Police Department. “And to the people who are doing these things, we’re going to hold them accountable.”
Stephen Koehne is an exceptionally talented surfer. He was close with the Irons brothers and Dustin Barca, among others. He surfed Pipeline and Teahupoo at a level on par with the best in the world. Since the reports of his alleged illegal activities have surfaced, Koehne has been the focus of the community’s ire on social media. Barca recently weighed with his support of Koehne. “A lot of shit talking about my brother,” he wrote on Instagram. False story about extortion and terroristic threatening. BULLSHIT story. DLNR [Department of Land and Natural Resources) steal his boat. Because one rude self righties tourist and he told him you can get off right here we haven’t left yet. People’s egos get hurt and make up stories putting a parent of 2 life in jeopardy. He also did 4 other trips that day. Bring Haena/Wainiha gas/water/food and medical supplies! There’s some rich clowns who are trying to ruin him for a couple of years. And some crazy lady!” [sic]
Barca’s not the only one saying that the story isn’t true. “I was personally on a jet ski all day on Monday the 16th helping people back and forth from Haena to Hanalei as well,” wrote another Instagram user. “I saw Captain Steph helping so many people to safety. Thanks @livesalty for being a hero and coming to assist the community and visitors in Ha’ena and Wainiha in this time of need.”
Others, though, haven’t been so complimentary.
“Brah, u like take advantage of people when they helpless and vulnerable,” one commenter wrote on Koehne’s Instagram. “I hope the same happens when you in jail and the braddahs stay coming for you! Karma is a bitch!!!”
“Scumbag, taking advantage of people during a disaster,” wrote another. “Bringing shame on the rest of us locals with that bullshit.”
Koehne denied that things happened the way they were being reported. “I can’t say much right now,” he wrote, “but I swear on the lives of my two kids I did not do what they said I did.”
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Update: Dustin Barca spoke with The Inertia and told a very different story than the police. Read that HERE.