Bad Company: The final days of Baron Dorcy, Maui Millionaire
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Dorcy meets with Petro Hoy at Maui's Sandalwood Cafe, the scene captured in a frame from a secretly recorded video.
On a sunny Thursday in Tahiti last September, friends of the late Laurence H. Dorcy boarded a Polynesian-themed catamaran named the Leaky Tiki and motored onto Cook’s Bay to scatter Dorcy’s cremated remains on the water. A Tahitian priest and a Hawaiian kahuna said some words. Flowered headbands and lei were tossed into the sea atop the ashes. Toasts were made and a bottle of Hinano beer was poured overboard in honor of the man his friends affectionately called “Baron.” ¶ Baron Dorcy declared in his will that he wanted his ashes spread in Tahiti, and he wanted his old friend Carl Geringer, whom he called “Gilligan,” to handle the arrangements. “This truly was what he wished,” says Geringer. ¶ Yet fulfilling Dorcy’s final wishes was far from simple.
Baron Dorcy, a collector of classic cars, at the wheel of his 1941 Skylark.
When he died at Straub Clinic & Hospital in June 2011, at the age of 76, he left behind an estate estimated at $70 million. Exactly who he intended to leave it to was the question at the heart of a trust-inheritance dispute that involved two conflicting wills, a rewritten trust, and allegations of undue influence, elder abuse and fraud.
On one side were beneficiaries of Dorcy’s original will, which included 32 charitable causes and a couple of dozen friends and relatives. On the other side was Hans Michael Kanuha, a former medical billing clerk, who, in a simple form will created four months before Dorcy’s death, stood to inherit virtually everything.
Kanuha maintained that Dorcy, who had no children, loved him the way a father loves a son. Beneficiaries of the first will alleged that Kanuha and an associate, Petro Hoy, were scam artists who brazenly attempted to seize Dorcy’s fortune. Their alleged scheme involved a handful of co-conspirators and an elaborate charade in which Hoy is accused of impersonating well-known Maui rancher and retired Bank of Hawaii executive Henry Rice.
The case had plenty of odd twists, including Kanuha’s briefly successful bid to become Dorcy’s adopted son while Dorcy lay in a coma. Ultimately, it was settled out of court, hours after a judge ruled that, for Kanuha to prevail, he would have to prove he did not exert undue influence over Dorcy. A criminal investigation by the Maui County prosecutor into the circumstances surrounding Dorcy’s death and into questions of theft and fraud is currently underway.
From a review of the voluminous court record, and through additional reporting, a picture has emerged of Dorcy as a good-hearted but guileless man whose physical and mental health were in decline as he grew increasingly entangled in the alleged plot to swindle him. What follows is an overview of the case and a glimpse into the life of the offbeat millionaire at the center of it.
Dorcy and Petro Hoy visit the Hawaiian Chieftan in San Francisco.
The Ultimate Trustifarian
Dorcy was born in San Francisco in 1935, the great-grandson of James Jerome Hill, the Gilded Era railroad tycoon who built the Great Northern Railway, and one of the richest men of his day. Early on, Dorcy developed a passion for great mechanical contraptions and conveyances, and throughout his life he immersed himself in one grand technical challenge after another, from rebuilding classic cars to salvaging an enormous steam engine from a sugar mill and restoring it to pristine condition.
For much of his life, Dorcy spent part of the year in the Bay Area and part in Honolulu. Besides serving in the Strategic Air Command as a young man, he never had a job. He lived largely off the proceeds of a 1917 trust his grandfather had established, which provided Dorcy with a few million dollars a year. After his mother died in 1997, and he inherited a larger share of the trust, he began building a lavish home on 25 acres in Kula, Maui, a project that took eight years to complete.
It was around 2002, while visiting Maui to check on construction, that Dorcy met Hans Kanuha, who was working at an old country service station, just down the road from Dorcy’s property.
The Poor Little Orphan and the International Metaphysician
When Dorcy spent the first night at his Kula estate in 2007, he threw a combination house-warming and Christmas party, and invited Kanuha to attend. According to testimony by Dorcy’s personal assistant, Nancy Paulic, Kanuha told a tear-filled story that night of his upbringing as an orphan raised by an abusive family.
Hans Kahuna at Dorcy's 2007 Christmas party.
Kanuha was not really an orphan, as he admitted in his own deposition. But Dorcy was convinced, multiple witnesses testified, that he was. And Dorcy was impressed with his gumption. He told one friend that Kanuha held a degree from Cornell University (he did not), then said, “not bad for an orphan.”
Dorcy had a soft spot in his heart for the disadvantaged, especially orphans, and on Christmas day—the day after the party—when Kanuha announced he suddenly had the opportunity to purchase on old Kula general store, the Morihara Store, Dorcy agreed to put up $800,000 to help. The deal obligated Kanuha to a $10,000-a-month mortgage. Kanuha made a few payments, then attempted to erase the debt through participation in Ko Hawaii Pae Aina, a fraudulent mortgage immunization scheme, wrapped up in Hawaiian sovereignty theory. Kanuha would later describe himself as a “stupid victim” of the scam, which had bilked numerous Native Hawaiians before a federal criminal investigation brought it down. Two of the key figures in the organization were Petro Hoy and his wife, Leatrice Lehua Hoy. She acted as secretary, and he purported to be a “special ambassador to the United Nations,” giving lectures on international law and sovereign immunity to prospective victims. Previously, Hoy had managed a Polynesian dance show in Europe, and promoted himself as a motivational speaker. He also claimed to be a psychiatrist and, in a decades-old film that surfaced on YouTube, in which he is seen walking on hot coals and puncturing his face and throat with skewers, he’s identified as an “international metaphysician, psychic and philosopher.”