HONOLULU (KHON2) — U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors and FBI Special Agent Steven Merrill held a news conference on Tuesday to announce the filing of charges against former Senate Majority Leader Jamie Kalani English and Rep. Ty Cullen. They have each been charged with one count of honest services wire fraud.
They have not been arrested, but court appearances for both defendants are expected shortly.
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According to court documents, English accepted bribes from an owner and operator of a Hawaii-based business that conducted industrial service throughout the state. In exchange for those bribes, English allegedly agreed to provide legislative support that would benefit this person’s company.
Court documents reveal that this business owner regularly entered into contracts with county governments to provide services and products in wastewater management. Several years ago, this person allegedly asked English to support passing legislation that would create and fund a large project.
“Although the legislation did not specifically provide any contracts to Person A’s company, Person A’s company had a significant advantage in being awarded a sub-contract because it was one of the few companies that could do the work,” court documents said.
After English provided his support to the legislation and it passed, this business owner gave him several thousands of dollars for English to purchase food and drinks for a political gathering English was hosting, according to court documents.
Prosecutors also allege the following:
- In 2019, English and Person A began to discuss cesspools. English agreed to support specific legislation that would favor Person A’s business in exchange for benefits that included hotel rooms and cash. At a later date, Person A paid English $10,000 in cash to “kill” the legislation. English changed course and agreed, saying that “[i]t’s easy to kill bills.”
- English solicited hotel rooms and cash and agreed to send Person A the CCWG’s Draft Report.
- English agreed to support proposed cesspool legislation favorable to Person A’s business.
Read the court documents below:
English announced his retirement last April after 25 years of service, citing health concerns.
“Having been deemed a long hauler, I was diagnosed with long-term effects of COVID-19. My new
normal will require me to address some of the challenges left to my short and long-term memory and other cognitive issues derived from this virus. These challenges have placed a number of things into perspective for me, including the need to take better care of my health,” English said on April 27, 2021.
The Kamehameha School and University of Hawaii at Manoa graduate was first elected to the Hawaii State Senate in 2000. Before that, he served as a member of the Maui County Council from 1997 to 2000.
Cullen, who serves as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Finance, is also accused of accepting benefits and gifts, such as casino chips and cash intended to influence his official actions as a legislator.
According to court documents, Cullen accepted bribes from Person A, the owner and operator of Hawaii-based business in 2014. Cullen is accused of agreeing to provide legislative support that would benefit Person A’s company in his official capacity as a member of the Hawaii State House of Representatives.
Read the court documents below:
In 2014, Cullen traveled to New Orleans for a wastewater conference also attended by Person A, court documents said. While there, Cullen allegedly accepted casino chips and gained access to a more exclusive gambling area because he was with Person A.
In 2015, Cullen introduced a bill contemplating the development of a system to collect and treat wastewater from existing sewerage systems as a direct favor to Person A, according to court documents. The legislature’s passage of the bill resulted in a subcontract being issued to Person A’s company.
On Tuesday, Feb. 8, Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki announced that Cullen submitted his resignation from the House of Representatives, which takes effect immediately. The Hawaii Democratic Party will need to begin the process of nominating a replacement.
Cullen has represented House District 39 (Village Park, Royal Kunia, Waipahu, Makakilo, and West Loch) since 2013. Prosecutors allege four cash payments totaling $23,000 from September 2019 to March 2020.
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If convicted, each defendant faces a fine of up to $250,000 and a sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment.