HONOLULU (KHON2) — Milton Choy, a Honolulu businessman pleaded guilty in court on Monday in connection to a bribery scandal that also involved two former state lawmakers.
Stewart Olani Stant, a former Maui county official also pleaded guilty on Monday to receiving $2 million in bribes from Choy over six years.
“I think what a lot of people are probably wondering is why did he need that much money?” KHON2 asked.
“I can’t comment on that, sorry,” said Cary Virtue, Stant’s attorney.
“He lived very well for a while there, I can tell you that, he lived very well,” said Ken Sorenson, assistant U.S. attorney.
According to prosecutors, in exchange, Stant awarded $19 million in contracts to Choy’s wastewater company called “H20 Process Systems, LLC.”
Prosecutors said it happened between 2012 and 2018 when Stant was manager and then director of the Department of Environmental Management for Maui County.
“They knew each other for a long time, and then you do a favor for one person and then it grows into another favor. And pretty soon somebody has a mortgage payment to make, they have a car payment to make. All of a sudden somebody’s going to Vegas to see a show and it kind of escalates,” said Michael Green, Choy’s attorney.
Feds said Choy gave Stant more than $400,000 in travel benefits, which include $183,000 in gambling chips. Former state lawmakers J. Kalani English and Ty Cullen also pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Choy, which also included Vegas trips and gambling chips.
“A lot of the inhibitions that may be present here aren’t so much there. So yeah, Vegas is one of the tools, I think, that those who want to corruptly influence public officials will utilize,” said Sorenson.
The feds said because Choy cooperated with the government in the English and Cullen case, Choy will not be charged for those incidents. Sorenson said all these cases should serve as a warning to those who take advantage of the system.
“We not only have the tools to come after them, we have the motivation to come after them. And we will aggressively pursue anybody who violates their public oath and anybody who wants to corruptly affect the process,” he said.
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Both defendants are scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 4. Choy faces a maximum penalty of 10 years, Stant faces up to 20 years.