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Sammy Amalu hoax revealed
Disgruntled with the disenfranchisement of Hawaiians and wanting to draw the spotlight to his own aristocratic background, Sammy Amalu pulled off a giant practical joke on island financiers. Amalu traced his family origins to King William Lunalilo but at the time of his biggest escapade, he was living modestly at the Golden Wall Hotel in Honolulu.
Waikiki real estate began to boom in the early 1960s when jet planes brought an ever growing number of tourists to O`ahu. Amalu had the audacity to put up the biggest offer to date on several prime properties: more than $50 million for several Sheraton hotels including the Royal Hawaiian, a spread at Makaha and ranch lands on Moloka`i. Sheraton bought his line and the deal got plenty of press coverage. Amalu – his true identity kept secret – had real estate agents and lawyers salivating for their cut of the deal. With only his unsubstantiated claims to land property to leverage the deal, the whole elaborate web of lies and subterfuge began to unravel. Officials caught Amalu writing two rubber checks and bounced him into jail.
Amalu served a year in jail during which time he struck up a correspondence with his old Punahou classmate, Thurston Twigg-Smith, publisher of The Honolulu Advertiser
. Twigg-Smith knew good copy when he read it and hired Amalu to write a regular column. Amalu's byline started appearing even before his release. His columns continued to run until 1984.
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