HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former Honolulu police major changed his plea and pleaded guilty to two federal felony counts Tuesday as prosecutors plan to drop extortion and drug charges against him.
Carlton Nishimura, 57, admitted to lying to FBI agents when he denied telling the wife of a Samoan gang member the gang was under federal investigation in 2010. The United Samoan Organization, known as the USO, is one of the largest organized gangs in the state.
Nishimura also pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return and under-reporting his 2005 income by $9,413. He claimed his income was just $79,202 but he was aware of additional income he did not report to the Internal Revenue Service, according to federal plea documents.
"I accept responsibility for my conduct," Nishimura told a federal court room filled mostly with journalists covering his case. He was dressed in a dark suit and tie.
In the courtroom, Nishimura told Hawaii News Now: "There's a lot I'd like to say to you but I can't talk. I'm sorry."
Outside the court Tuesday afternoon, he declined to speak to reporters.
In exchange for his guilty pleas, federal prosecutors are expected to drop charges involving possession of 16 grams of crystal methamphetamine, which the FBI said was confiscated from his Waianae home in November 2011.
Another charge that will be dropped claimed Nishimura extorted money from the man in charge of an illegal gambling operation and protected the gambling joint from police raids while harassing his competitors.
This has been an embarrassing chapter for HPD, where the 30-year veteran previously headed the Criminal Investigation Division, overseeing investigations of major crimes such as murders, robberies, thefts and assaults.
When he was first indicted for the extortion charges in February of 2011, he was assigned to the police department's legislative liaison office which lobbies state lawmakers and members of the Honolulu City Council on HPD's behalf.
Sources told Hawaii News Now Nishimura faced a police internal affairs investigation years ago while he was still a captain about whether he was extorting money from gambling operations.
He was later promoted to major by former Police Chief Boisse Correa after the internal probe cleared him of wrongdoing, sources said.
Nishimura's trial was scheduled to begin in September. One of the key prosecution witnesses was expected to be Doni Mei Imose Crisolo, who pleaded guilty last month to crystal methamphetamine possession. Sources said she was not considered a strong witness, since she had told her previous attorney she lied before the federal grand jury that first indicted Nishimura, because she claimed she was under pressure from the FBI.
When Nishimura is sentenced Oct. 17, he will face a maximum of eight years in federal prison and a fine up to $500,000. But sources familiar with federal sentencing guidelines expect Federal Judge Helen Gillmor to sentence him to two or three years behind bars, since he has an otherwise-clean criminal record.
He remains free on bail until sentencing. Nishimura will next meet with officials from the U.S. Probation Office as its staff compiles a pre-sentence report that Gillmor will use as a guide as she sentences him in the fall.
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