News

Arson Investigation Open on Uncle Billy’s Fire; Squatters Arrested, Cited

By Tom Hasslinger
March 4, 2022, 4:26 PM HST
* Updated March 4, 5:43 PM
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Antanacious Nau

The Hawai‘i Police Department has opened an arson investigation related to the fire early Friday morning at the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel.

The cause of the fire that leveled an estimated $2 million in damages to the structure is believed to be electrical in nature and possibly due to someone having tampered with an electrical junction box, the department stated in a news release on Friday afternoon.

A man was arrested at the property on an outstanding bench warrant, but not in relation to the arson investigation. 

Antanacious Nau, 29, was found during the property search, where officers determined he was wanted on a warrant for promotion of a dangerous drug and was in possession of drugs. According to a police message just before 5:30 p.m. Friday, he was arrested for the warrant and two counts of third-degree dangerous drug, third-degree promotion of detrimental drug, drug paraphernalia and criminal trespass.

State officials said that Nau was residing in room 242 of the former hotel, and 1.7 grams of meth was recovered as well as a syringe containing 30 units of liquefied meth when he was apprehended.

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Nau was released pending investigation on all the drug offenses and criminal trespassing, but remains in police custody at this time on the bench warrant. Detectives from Hawai‘i Police Department’s Area I Vice Section are continuing the drug investigation.

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Two other individuals were found residing in the old hotel during the police search.

Nohelani Cordiero, 40, was issued a citation for criminal trespass on state land after being found asleep in room 320, as was Ricardo Cordeiro, 37.

The former Uncle Billy’s Hotel and several other Banyan Drive properties are under the jurisdiction of the state DLNR Land Division and have been for more than 50 years. DLNR has been pursuing demolition and redevelopment of the property, but the effort is on hold due to lack of funds for demolition as well as non-DLNR related litigation.

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The fire broke out around 1:30 a.m. Police received a report from staff person at a Hilo hotel of a possible fire at a nearby vacant property located at 87 Banyan Drive.

When police and fire personnel arrived, they determined the south side of the structure was engulfed in flames on all four levels. There were no signs of anyone trapped in the burning structure or in need of help and no injuries were reported as a result of the incident.

Banyan Drive was temporarily closed and traffic was diverted. The road was reopened shortly after 5 a.m.

Detectives from Hawaii Police Department’s Area I Criminal Investigation Section will be continuing the arson investigation. Police ask that anyone with information regarding this incident to call the police department’s nonemergency line at 808-935-3311.

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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