Airport theft probe that’s netted at least 7 arrests exposes possible public corruption scheme

Seven state workers have been arrested, including law enforcement officers.
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 6:43 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 18, 2022 at 10:27 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Following the arrests of several state workers, an investigation into alleged thefts at the Honolulu airport baseyard has expanded — and led to suspicions of insider contracting.

Hawaii News Now has also learned that last year’s raid at the baseyard by the Attorney General’s Office resulted in the arrest of a deputy sheriff and a prison guard at the Oahu Community Correctional Center.

Five other state employees, all with the Department of Transportation, have also been arrested in connection with the probe over the last 16 months, sources confirm to HNN.

“Given the number of people involved, I think the scheme was extensive in terms of longevity,” said Randal Lee, a retired judge and well-known investigator of white-collar crimes.

“I don’t think it was just a one-time occurrence. The scheme had been going on for years.”

Deputy Sheriff Freddie Carabbacan, a state Department of Public Safety employee since 2004, was arrested last year on suspicion of second-degree theft. Kennesey Keawe, who has worked as an adult correctional officer for two decades, was arrested on similar charges.

He’s the brother of former baseyard supervisor Arnold Keawe Sr., who was arrested last year. Both Carabbacan and Kenessey Keawe still work for the state Department of Public Safety.

None of those arrested have been charged.

But HNN has confirmed that what began as a theft investigation has expanded to include alleged contracting violations. One of the DOT employees arrested — Steve Washiashi — is a purchasing employee with the department, which suggests insider deals with taxpayer money.

“It was a closely knit group that were was using the procurement process to either purchase equipment or purchase material that were used for either personal use or business use,” said Lee.

Carabbacan told HNN the Attorney General’s Office is investigating a vehicle repair shop he owns. He said his business did about $140,000 of repair work for the baseyard.

But he denied any wrongdoing, saying other repair shops didn’t want the work because the state wasn’t paying enough. He said he only earned $15,000 in profit and is still owed several thousand dollars.

Carabbacan said he has been relieved of his police duties since his arrest but doesn’t know why he was arrested. HNN was unable to reach the other suspects.

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