Another former Maui wastewater official pleads guilty to bribery in corruption scandal

The federal bribery investigation, which led to convictions of two state lawmakers, has netted its final target.
Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 8:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Maui wastewater Supervisor Wilfredo Tamayo Savella pleaded guilty to bribery charges on Monday as part of a sprawling corruption scandal that also netted public officials.

Savella, 71, admitted he received more than $40,000 in bribes from Honolulu businessman Milton Choy.

In return, Savella said he helped steer 35 non-bid contracts worth more than $10 million to Choy’s company, H20 Process Systems.

He’s the final target in a federal probe that netted bribery convictions against two ex-state lawmakers.

“There’s a great deal of harm anytime a public official starts privateering and starts profiting by his position and selling his position,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson.

In a complaint unsealed last week, federal prosecutors said Savella accepted bribes in the form of personal checks, first-class airfare to Las Vegas and even casino chips.

But his lawyer said Savella was only following orders from his boss Stewart Stant, who was convicted in September of accepting more than $2 million in bribes from Choy.

“Based on the culture that they had in Maui at the time, he was expected to assist,” said attorney Victor Bakke.

“He didn’t have the power to sign off on these things and direct them but he was at a level where he could influence the direction of the contract. So if it wasn’t for Mr. Choy, none of this would have happened.

Choy has also pleaded guilty, but only to a single count of bribery.

That was partly due to his cooperation in the sting that netted bribery convictions against former state Sen. J. Kalani English and former state Rep. Ty Cullen.

Savella faces up to 10 years in prison but will likely get less than that under a plea deal.

His sentencing is scheduled for April 20.