The accused Honolulu crime boss is now at the center of a major federal public corruption case.

Editor’s note: The arrest last month of Mike Miske by federal agents, coming in the midst of a years-long public corruption investigation that is still playing out, has captivated many in Hawaii, especially those familiar with Miske’s reputation and history of high-profile bad behavior. Miske has been at least tangentially involved in the federal investigation into former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, his deputy prosecutor wife Katherine, other Honolulu police officers, the elected prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and top city officials like Corporation Counsel Donna Leong and Managing Director Roy Amemiya. In this piece, longtime Honolulu investigative reporter Ian Lind has painstakingly researched court and police records for a look at Miske’s early steps on a path that could lead to the death penalty, a rarity in Hawaii. 

The federal indictment of Michael Miske Jr. and 10 others for allegedly operating a violent criminal enterprise has focused public attention on the 46-year-old Honolulu businessman.

Miske is best known to the public for his Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, which has advertised itself heavily for years, and his part-ownership and management of the popular M Nightclub in downtown Honolulu’s Restaurant Row, which opened in 2012 and closed in 2016 after a series of highly publicized assaults on or near club premises.

Federal prosecutors allege that while the exact origin of Miske’s racketeering conspiracy is unknown, it was already up and running as a criminal gang “by at least in or about the late 1990s.”

A review of court records, newspaper archives, and other available public documents from that period confirms that by the time Mike Miske was 21 years old, he was a felon, a multiple offender, and well on his way to a criminal career.

This is, of course, not the end of the story. It is just the beginning. But it is undoubtedly a disturbing and potentially revealing first chapter.

Michael John Miske Jr. was born in Honolulu on Feb. 15, 1974. He was named after his father, who had arrived in Honolulu a decade before when his father, Walter L. Miske — Mike Miske’s grandfather, a jeweler by profession — relocated his family from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to begin a new job in the islands.

The senior Mike Miske, who attended Kalani High School, died in 1980 at age 28, when Michael Jr. was just 6 years old. He was an only child.

After his father’s death, young Michael and his mother were folded into her extended local family and had less contact with his Miske relatives. His mother, Maydeen (Lau) Miske, remarried and the family moved into a house near some of her relatives in Waimanalo. Another son, Michael’s step-brother John B. Stancil, was born when Miske was 13. He is a co-defendant in the current federal case.

As a teenager, Miske reportedly had trouble with his new stepfather and they often tangled, eventually causing him to leave home.

“When his mother remarried he struggled to find a place in his new home,” recalls his cousin and business partner, Allen Lau, in a character reference letter filed in court by Miske’s defense attorneys. “He would often stay at my house sleeping on my parents’ couch or even at the beach.”