East Hawaii News

Two Arrested for Conducting Illegal Lava Tours

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A Mountain View woman and Kea’au man have been arrested, charged, and released after holding lava tours on lands managed by the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Christa Nicholas, 23, and Matthew Hoeflinger, 50, are charged with various misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor offenses after an undercover operation found the two were involved in tours that were held at the Wao Kele O Puna Forest Reserve and Kahaualea Natural Reserve.

Officers from the DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement made the arrests Monday.

Each individual faces various misdemeanor charges, including second-degree reckless endangerment, conducting illegal commercial activities within a forest reserve, entering a closed area within a natural area reserve, and conducting illegal commercial activities within a natural area reserve.

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There are also petty misdemeanor charges each are facing, including second-degree trespassing and entering a closed area within a forest reserve.

“DLNR intends to prosecute any trespassers who willfully violate the closures and place enforcement officers and emergency personnel at increased risk,” said William J. Aila,Jr., DLNR chairperson, in a statement.

The DLNR says that entering closed lands is a violation of Administrative Rule Sec. 13-221-4 and Revised Statute 171-6. The punishment for a first offense is a fine up to $5,000.

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Nicholas and Hoeflinger were each taken to the Pahoa Police Station, where they were released on their own recognizance.

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