Reported Cult Leader Sent Back to MainlandJune 15, 2020, 5:10 PM HST (Updated June 15, 2020, 5:26 PM)
The self-proclaimed leader of a suspected cult and two of his followers have left Hawai‘i Island and are headed back to the mainland after violating Gov. David Ige’s quarantine order for the COVID-19 pandemic.
At approximately 4:50 p.m. on Monday, Hawai‘i County Prosecutor Mitch Roth confirmed that Eligio Lee Bishop, 38, of Georgia, leader of Carbon Nation who refers to himself as “Nature Boy,” is off-island, along with two followers.
Bishop and the 20 members of his group were taken into custody on June 10 and June 11 for violating quarantine. According to the Hawai‘i Police Department, the group landed at Hilo International Airport last week and was seen at a beach park the day they arrived.
All members were in Hilo District Court on Friday where they pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial.
Roth said Bishop reconsidered his options and changed his plea to guilty for violation of the state’s quarantine order. The 38-year-old was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with an early release to be sent back to the mainland.
Roth said the prosecutor’s office is working with Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai‘i (VASH), a nonprofit organization that provides funding to send visitors back home, to send Carbon Nation members back to the continental US.
“We’re taking these quarantine measures very seriously,” Roth said.
The county prosecutors said Hawai‘i Island has been fortunate as there have been no coronavirus-related deaths and that is due in part to the vigilance of the residents.
“People should realize we’re under emergency proclamation and we will not tolerate people violating the quarantine, especially vagrantly violating the proclamation,” Roth added. “We’ve got to protect the health and safety of our community.”
Social media was flooded with posts of Bishop and his group soon after their arrival in Hilo. Ultimately, HPD was alerted and conducted two sweeps for quarantine violators. The first sweep occurred on June 10 at a residence on Pikake Street in the Fern Forrest subdivision, where five men and three women were taken into custody.
The following day, HPD arrested 13 additional individuals — six women and seven men — at a residence on Railroad Avenue in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision.
During a press conference with state leaders Monday, Director of the Hawai‘i Department of Health Bruce Anderson said no cult member is believed to have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Monday.
Gov. David Ige said he believes, from a policy perspective, that if someone wants to leave the island after an arrest, it’s better to assist them rather than have them linger in Hawaii’s jails. Returning them to the mainland ultimately saves more money than keeping them detained here would, he continued.
Max Dible contributed to this story.