City worker pleads guilty to embezzlement, bribery over CARES Act funds

City worker pleads guilty to embezzlement, bribery over CARES Act funds
Hawaii News Now/File (Source: HNN File)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Prosecutors say a city worker agreed to accept a bribe in exchange for funneling federal pandemic aid money to specific grant applicants.

Hanalei Aipoalani, 42, pleaded guilty to the charges of embezzlement and bribery on Friday. He was hired by the city last August to administer the federal funds.

According to the Justice Department, he agreed to accept the bribe from an applicant who filed two fraudulent applications. In exchange for financial benefit, Aipoalani promised he would influence the approval of the grant applications.

In a separate embezzlement scheme, prosecutors said that from 2014 to 2019, he also stole more than $500,000 from the organization AmeriCorps.

His sentencing is set for June and he faces seven years behind bars.

“The defendant conspired to enrich himself with taxpayer dollars intended to support at-risk communities in Hawaii, he victimized legitimate volunteers and others by stealing their identities to perpetrate multiple fraud schemes, and he submitted falsified documentation and certifications to the government, all to the detriment of their community,” said Deborah Jeffrey, inspector general of AmeriCorps.

“Our investigation also disrupted an ongoing scheme to steal much-needed pandemic relief funds. I commend U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their partnership on this case,” Jeffrey added.

Aipoalani is a former candidate for state office. He ran in 2006, vocal about his support of biotechnology and other industries in an effort to diversify Hawaii’s economy.

Meanwhile his wife, Angelita Aipoalani, was also allegedly involved in the embezzlement scheme. She has been charged.

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