Ex-Hawaii official pleads responsible of embezzlement and bribery | Information, sports activities, jobs

HONOLULU (AP) – A former Hawaii County Council member pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling more than $ 38,000 while serving as the executive director of a state commission that administers nonprofit programs.

Stacy Higa spent the money on personal expenses, including $ 20,000 in “Choice of aesthetic dental care”, US prosecutors announced.

From February 2018 until his resignation in May 2020 as executive director of the Hawaii Commission for National and Nonprofit Service, he embezzled money from AmeriCorps, a program for volunteers who receive scholarships to work in vulnerable and marginalized communities, prosecutors said.

He also offered bribes in exchange for grants from the federal coronavirus pandemic relief fund, prosecutors said.

Higa, who is also the former CEO of Na Leo TV on the Big Island, pleaded guilty to embezzlement and bribery before a federal judge in Washington, DC. He is due to be sentenced in January.

Prosecutors said Higa offered financial benefits to Hanalei Aipoalani, who administered the Honolulu aid funds.

Aipoalani, who previously pleaded guilty to the embezzlement of AmeriCorps and agreed to accept bribes under the CARES Act, was sentenced to 46 months in prison in June.

Higa and Aipoalani discussed opening businesses with their wives to launder the money, prosecutors said.

As part of a plea agreement, Higa admitted that it expected a profit of at least $ 250,000 from bribing the relief funds, prosecutors said.

The U.S. government provided pandemic aid funds to states and counties under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as CARES.

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