HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department conducted internal investigations into former Major Carlton Nishimura and delayed his promotion because of long-time rumors that he was extorting money from gambling parlors, sources told Hawaii News Now.
On June 25, Nishimura pleaded guilty to federal charges that he lied to the FBI and filed false tax returns, covering up money he made from extorting illegal gamblers in Chinatown. He was a 31-year HPD veteran who once headed the Criminal Investigation Division, overseeing investigations of murders, robberies, rapes and other major crimes.
In February 2011, a federal grand jury indicted Nishimura in the gambling conspiracy case. He was indicted for a second time on drug charges after the FBI found the drug crystal meth in Nishimura's Waianae home later that year.
"This is very small, it's one person but a very small fraction of our department and things like that happen," said HPD Chief Louis Kealoha after Nishimura's second indictment in November 2011.
Police sources told Hawaii News Now that years ago, long before the early 2011 indictment, there were rumors at HPD that Nishimura was accepting bribes from gambling operators.
At the time, Nishimura was up for a promotion from captain to major. He was the executive officer in charge of HPD's Information Technology Division.
Former Police Chief Boisse Correa delayed Nishimura's promotion twice for months and months, while HPD internal affairs detectives investigated Nishimura, sources said.
But they were unable to come up with strong evidence that Nishimura was doing anything wrong, sources said.
A source said Correa then contacted federal authorities to ask them if they had anything credible about illegal behavior by Nishimura.
Their answer: other than hearsay, they had nothing they could prove, a source said.
So HPD promoted Nishimura to major in the fall of 2007. Correa retired from HPD in August 2009.
Shortly after that promotion, sources said law enforcement developed information that he was involved in illegal gambling.
The federal indictment claimed the extortion happened between April 2004 and March 2006 when Nishimura was a captain in the urban Honolulu district, which covers downtown and Chinatown.
Federal prosecutors agreed to drop the gambling conspiracy and drug charges in exchange for Nishimura's agreement to plead guilty to lying to FBI agents and filing 2005 tax returns that under reported his income by about $9,000.
Nishimura faces a maximum eight years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine when he's sentenced at Federal Court in October. But people familiar with federal sentencing guidelines said while it's likely he will go to prison, he probably won't spend more than two or three years behind bars because of his otherwise-clean criminal record.