Former Maui official and businessman plead guilty to kickbacks in Hawaii
HONOLULU (AP) — A former Maui county official and the Honolulu businessman who paid him $2 million in bribes in exchange for more than $19 million in remediation contracts each pleaded guilty on Monday in one of the largest corruption cases ever prosecuted in Hawaii.
Stewart Olani Stant, who previously served as wastewater manager and director of Maui’s Department of Environmental Management, and Milton Choy, owner and director of wastewater treatment company H2O Process Systems LLC, presented their case during the separate hearings in the U.S. District Court in Honolulu.
They are each due to be sentenced on January 4 on one count of honest services wire fraud. In exchange for their pleas, prosecutors will not bring additional charges against them.
Stant is the latest official to admit taking bribes from Choy.
In February, two former Democratic state lawmakers pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud for accepting bribes from Choy in exchange for influence on legislation.
Prosecutors said Choy deposited money in bank accounts belonging to Stant over a six-year period beginning in 2012. They said Choy also handed over money to Stant and gave him tokens. gambling on trips to Las Vegas. Choy additionally paid for Stant’s airfare and hotel accommodations in Las Vegas, they said.
In exchange, prosecutors said Stant gave H2O and Choy at least 56 sole-source contracts worth $19.3 million.
Court documents say Stant managed the county’s sewage reclamation division from at least October 2012 until December 2015. After that, he served as director of the county’s Department of Environmental Management until December 2018. .
Prosecutors say they will seek to have Stant lose the $2 million he got from Choy and for Choy to give up some $15 million he, in turn, earned from the contracts.
Clare Connors, the US attorney from Hawaii, said last week that the Stant case was one of the biggest corruption cases her office has ever investigated and prosecuted.
In July, former state Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English was sentenced to three years and four months in prison for accepting bribes from Choy. Former State Rep. Ty Cullen, who served as deputy chairman of the House Finance Committee, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 20.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said Friday that the events leading to the charges occurred under the county’s previous administration. He said he ordered an audit of all untendered contracts awarded to Choy companies.
“Whenever corruption undermines public trust, those responsible must be investigated, prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Victorino said in a statement.
Hawaii enacted several reform bills this year that lawmakers passed to clean up politics after the allegations against English and Cullen emerged.
The new laws include one that prohibits holding fundraisers during the legislative session and another requiring certain nonprofits operating as non-candidate committees to disclose the names of donors giving them more than $10,000.
The Commission for Improving Standards of Conduct, which is an independent group created by the House of Representatives, is expected to submit recommendations in December for more reforms.
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