Prosecutors: Businessman funneled $2M in bribes to public official in exchange for Maui contracts
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Federal prosecutors Thursday charged the Hawaii businessman at the center of the state Capitol bribery scandal, alleging he also paid about $2 million in bribes to a former Maui official.
It’s the largest ever bribery case in Hawaii history.
Federal prosecutors charged Milton Choy, owner of H20 Process Systems, with a single count of bribery.
They also charged former Maui wastewater official Stewart Stant, who at one time served as director of Environmental Management for Maui County, for receiving the extensive bribes.
Officials are holding a news conference to discuss the case.
“These bribes paid off. Mr. Choy’s business received substantial work,” said U.S. Attorney for Hawaii Clare Connors, at a news conference. “This was reported to us by somebody to us who saw something and didn’t think it looked right. That’s where and how we began this investigation and we looked at it and agreed.”
She added, “It is certainly among one of the largest bribery cases that our office has investigated.
Choy is the businessman who provided bribes to disgraced former state Sen. J. Kalani English and ex-state Rep. Ty Cullen, both of whom pleaded guilty.
Choy’s attorney, Michael Green, said his client had been cooperating with investigators.
“It wasn’t ever a question since I’ve been involved in this that he was not prepared to tell them everything he knew. And he did. As far as I can tell, he told them everything,” Green previously told HNN.
Choy was not charged for the bribes paid to Cullen and English. Connors confirmed Thursday that at the time those bribes were paid, he was working with federal investigators looking into corrupt state lawmakers.
“He engaged in cooperation ... and it led to a number of prosecutions,” Connors said.
In the complaints unsealed Thursday, federal investigators said that Choy conducted “millions of dollars” in business with Maui County in the form of non-bid contracts.
A Hawaii News Now analysis of county procurement records shows that since 2012, Choy’s firm received more than 50 non-bid contracts valued at around $20 million.
Choy and Stant will appear in federal court on Monday.
Stant faces a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars. Choy faces 15 years in prison. Federal authorities will also be seeking forfeiture against the two ― about $2 million for Stant and $15 million for Choy.
Steven B. Merrill, special agent in charge of Honolulu’s FBI field office, said public corruption is a key priority because it erodes public trust in institutions.
He said the two were “emboldened to continue this scheme until their greed caught up with them.”
Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said Stant left his county position in January 2019.
“All allegations contained in the federal filings occurred prior to the Victorino Administration. The mayor has no personal knowledge of any of these accusations,” a spokesperson.
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