Guides Arrested for Illegal Lava Viewing Tours
By Maui Now Staff
Two guides were arrested for allegedly leading illegal lava viewing tours into the Wao Kele O Puna Forest and Kahaualea Natural Area Reserves.
Officers with the state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement conducted an undercover operation, which resulted in the arrest on Monday of Matthew Hoeflinger, 50, of Keaʻau, and Christa Nicholas, 23, of Mountain View.
Both were charged with misdemeanor offenses including prohibited entry into closed areas, and for engaging in illegal commercial activities on DLNR-managed lands.
Both individuals have since been released on their own recognizance.
Entry into closed lands is a violation of Hawaiʻi state law, and is subject of penalty up to $5,000 for the first offense.
“DLNR intends to prosecute any trespassers who willfully violate the closures and place enforcement officers and emergency personnel at increased risk,” said William Aila,Jr., DLNR chairperson in a department press release.
Signs have been posted at various access points warning the public of the hazardous conditions.