Prosecutors: 2 Hawaiian lawmakers took bribes to handle bills | national

By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER and AUDREY McAVOY – Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii state senator and state representative have accepted bribes, including cash envelopes, Las Vegas hotel rooms and casino chips of New Orleans in exchange for crafting legislation that would benefit a company involved in state-funded cesspool conversion projects, according to the federal government. allegations filed in court.

Former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English unsuccessfully tried to hide an envelope with a $5,000 bribe when FBI agents stopped his vehicle in January 2021 after an encounter with a business owner who benefited from cesspool legislation, according to a charging document filed in the U.S. District. Court in Honolulu on Tuesday.

In total, English received more than $18,000 in bribes, prosecutors said, including hotel rooms in Las Vegas and money for a crab dinner for friends and family in visit from Tahiti.

English, 54, announced his retirement in May 2021, saying he was suffering from the long-term effects of COVID-19. The Democrat represented East Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

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“Kalani is extremely remorseful and deeply sorry for his actions,” his attorney, Richard Sing, said in a statement. “He has cooperated fully with the federal government and will take formal responsibility in the form of a guilty plea which will be completed in the coming days.”

A state senate spokesman, Jacob Aki, said the senate “was not aware of these allegations.” He declined to comment further.

A charging document against state Representative Ty Cullen, 41, said the bribes he received included casino chips and four cash payments totaling $23,000.

Cullen’s attorney, Birney Bervar, said Wednesday his client accepts full responsibility for his actions and is expected to plead guilty next week.

House Speaker Scott Saiki said Cullen tendered his resignation on Tuesday. Saiki said the Hawaii Democratic Party will now have to begin the process of nominating a replacement for Cullen.

Cullen represented Waipahu and West Loch on Oahu.

It was unclear whether Cullen and English received the alleged kickbacks from the same person.

Separate billing documents for each lawmaker listed the bribe payer as someone with a business “well positioned to take advantage of publicly funded sump conversion projects.”

In December 2019, the business owner, identified in both court documents as “Person A”, asked Cullen if he needed “help”, and Cullen said he was “paying a lot of debts”. the next month.

Around the same time, English received the same amount for his legislative assistance and told Person A, “I can definitely use it now. All mortgages became due,” according to his billing document.

Person A also paid them later to help pay the bills, according to court documents.

Both men are charged with honest services wire fraud. If found guilty, each faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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