Exclusive: two HPD officers charged in alleged workers comp fraud scheme

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii News Now has learned that two Honolulu police officers have been charged with criminal wrongdoing for an alleged workers compensation fraud scheme.

One of the defendants, a sergeant, has been with HPD for 25 years. The other, an officer, is a 15-year police veteran. Their first court hearing on charges of tampering with a government record took place without them Tuesday morning.

Defense attorneys Ken Shimozono and Walter Rodby are representing Sgt. Mitchell Tojio and Ofr. Jim Yasue.

In November 2009, the defendants were assigned to work with youngsters through the Police Activities League, and were conducting a speed and fitness camp at Kalihi Valley District Park. City prosecutors say Tojio hurt his wrist and filed a workers compensation claim, saying the injury occurred in the course of his duties when he tried to jump onto a piece of exercise equipment.

HPD's Internal Affairs Division reportedly launched an investigation after receiving an anonymous letter alleging that the workers compensation claim was bogus, that the exercise equipment cited was not usable that day, and that the sergeant hurt himself when he tried to jump onto a table.

Internal Affairs submitted its findings to the city prosecutor's office, which filed a complaint charging the sergeant with tampering with a government record. Officer Yasue is accused of filing a false report for his supervisor.

The attorneys stood in for the defendants at their initial court appearance. The accused have been stripped of their badges and guns pending the outcome of the case.

"He's not guilty," Shimozono, Tojio's attorney, said. "While we cannot comment on the evidence at this time, he is looking forward to his day in court and expects to be fully vindicated at trial."

"The department is closely watching the outcome of this case and will take appropriate action upon its conclusion," Capt. Andrew Lum, Honolulu Police Department, said.

Tojio is now on desk duty in HPD's Records and Identification Division. Yasue is on restricted duty working in the main police cellblock.

They have three weeks to decide whether they want their case to be heard by a jury or a judge.

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