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2 Men Arrested For Child Solicitation Indicted

By Tiffany DeMasters
May 15, 2021, 10:11 AM HST
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Two men were indicted after their arrests last week during a multi-agency operation to catch online child predators.

Indictments for Joseph Michael Powell, 36, of Hilo, and Marshall Baji, 31, of Nā‘ālehu, were filed in 3rd Circuit Court on May 12. Both men were charged as a result of Operation Keiki Shield East Hawai‘i, which was conducted between Thursday, May 6, and Saturday, May 8. The multi-agency collaborative operation focused on targeting individuals who solicit children for sexual acts electronically.

On May 10, Powell had been charged in District Court with first-degree electronic enticement of a child and first-degree attempted promotion of minor-produced sexual images. He was held on $50,000 bail.

The 36-year-old had an initial appearance on May 10 and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for May 12. However, the indictment was filed, which moved his case directly to 3rd Circuit Court.

Powell was indicted on a myriad of additional offenses that include 11 counts of first-degree attempted promotion of minor-produced sexual images and attempted promotion of pornography for minors. Bail was increased to $82,000.

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Baji also appeared in District Court on May 10 on charges of first-degree electronic enticement of a child, promoting pornography for minors, promoting minor-produced sexual images, third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, promotion of a detrimental drug, prohibited acts related to drug paraphernalia, place to keep ammunition, loaded firearm on the highway and permit to acquire and registration mandatory. He was released on his own recognizance and was scheduled to appear in court on May 17.

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However, an indictment against the 31-year-old was filed on May 12. He was arrested on a bench warrant on May 13. Baji remains in custody in lieu of $143,000 bail and is scheduled to make his initial appearance on Monday in 3rd Circuit Court in Kona.

The three other individuals arrested as a result of Operation Keiki Sheild were Nolan O. Tallett, 45, of Hilo, Sonny Eugenio Puerto, 28, of Kurtistown, and Kanani Ikaika Perreira-Yurong, 31, of Hilo. A bail of $50,000 was set for all three men.

An information charging complaint with a declaration of facts supported by law enforcement was filed for the three men in 3rd Circuit Court.

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On May 13, Puerto appeared before Circuit Court Judge Peter Kubota who granted a reduction in bail from $50,000 to $30,000 over the state’s objection. A jury trial has been scheduled for October.

Tallett and Perreira-Yurong have yet to appear in Circuit Court.

Operation Keiki Sheild is an initiative focused on identifying and arresting offenders who commit internet-facilitated sex crimes against minors and rescuing victims of child sexual exploitation and abuse. The operation was conducted by members of Hawai‘i Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division, US Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), along with special agents from the Department of the Attorney General – Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the United States Secret Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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