For nearly two years, the FBI has been conducting an undercover sting at Honolulu Airport, looking into allegations of payoffs demanded by private security guards.
"I made payments, I took recordings, took videos and I made a lot of payments," said "Lou," a cab driver and an FBI informant. "It started with small money like $20, $40, then became a hundred, then two hundred, then it came into thousands."
Lou and another FBI informant told Hawaii News Now that they wore hidden cameras and tape recorders to document nearly 20 payments to the security workers. Sometimes the cash payments were made in the open and other times, they were concealed in paper bags or envelopes left on benches, in garbage cans or exchanged in airport bathrooms, they said.
"A lot of drivers do it because that's the only way they could pick up customers," said "Mike," who also went undercover for the FBI.
Unlike the metered taxis, these cab and shuttle drivers serve passengers who make reservations in advance. They're allowed to wait for the customers on airport traffic islands for 15 minutes.
The drivers said the payments allowed them to remain on the islands for their allotted time. They said if they didn't make payments, the guards shooed them away before their customers arrived or threatened them with tickets carrying fines of up to $2,000. They alleged that some guards steered their customers to other drivers.
"When I did not make payments, I lost my customers," said Mike
The guards work for one of the world's largest private security firms, Securitas, which has a three-year, $98 million contract to provide security for all of Hawaii's airports.
Hawaii News Now reached out to the company for comment but they declined.
The allegations of retaliation weren't limited to drivers.
One former Securitas security guard said she was fired in 2012 after issuing a warning to a shuttle company.
Her case was investigated by the state Unemployment Appeals Agency, which found that the worker attempted to return gifts from that same shuttle company, including an iPhone and a $150 gift card. The state agency said that a Securitas manager told her to give the phone to her daughter.
Hawaii News Now has learned that the FBI has turned its undercover investigation over to the state Attorney General's office.