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Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Kahapea OK’d new-site
fixes, co-defendant says

Judge defers CMZ exec's no-contest plea

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Stephen Swift says he was told he would be repaid for improvements at a new location when he was forced to move his demolition business from Ewa Villages.

The man who gave him those assurances, Swift told a Circuit Court jury yesterday, was former city housing official Michael Kahapea, who is standing trial on 47 counts of theft, money-laundering and related charges.

Ewa Villages Trial Swift, Kahapea's remaining co-defendant, is on trial on one count of second-degree theft. Prosecutors say he overcharged the city $11,000 for work done when his company, Transcend Inc., was forced to relocate because of the city's rehabilitation of Ewa Villages.

Swift subcontracted only about $8,800 to C&C Electric, but got a check from the city for $19,945, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors said Swift told police he submitted to the city a copy of the check he wrote to C&C and an invoice by C&C seeking reimbursement.

But detectives found no such check in Transcend's subpoenaed bank records and, when asked for more information, Swift produced a voided $19,945 check signed to C&C.

But questioned by his attorney, public defender Todd Eddins, Swift said the check was never given to C&C because the electrical contractor never completed its job for Transcend.

Swift said he sent Kahapea a copy of the check for reimbursement before C&C finished its work.

And while Swift, in yesterday's testimony, did not say specifically what happened to the rest of the money, he painstakingly detailed how he and his employees needed to put in additional work at the Waipahu site, a site he had chosen.

Swift said Kahapea had promised that he would have the same quality of electrical, water, restroom facilities and other infrastructure that he did in Ewa Villages.

"That was what I understood," Swift said. "It was explained to me that if we had it at the facility we were in, at the facility we would be relocated to we would have the equivalent infrastructure - not better or worse - equal."

Among the items he needed to improve, Swift said, were "water, electricity, bathrooms, lighting, security (and) parking."

He assumed the city would take care of those concerns but when no contractors came calling, he said, "I took the matter into my own hands like I always do."

Swift yesterday also said he did not know that existing city laws allowed him to move his business on his own and then get reimbursed.

So in August 1995, he submitted a bid for his own move, following Kahapea's instructions. That job ultimately went to American Hauling, whose owner later was also arrested and charged with theft.

Swift said he signed blank requests-for-payment and reimbursement papers for Kahapea at the latter's request.

"I had asked the neighbors that were moving too and everybody was signing them," Swift said.

Kahapea is charged with masterminding the scheme that stole some $5.8 million from the Ewa Villages relocation fund. Prosecutors say he rigged the bidding system and diverted the money to five firms set up by family and friends for work not done or done at inflated prices.

Judge defers CMZ
exec’s no-contest plea

Star-Bulletin staff


A man who pleaded no contest to overbilling the city $1,600 for electrical work after moving from Ewa Villages in 1996 will have a chance to clear his record if he abides by court-ordered conditions.

A state judge yesterday granted Bruce St. Germain's request to defer his no contest plea to second-degree theft for five years.

Judge Marie Milks said in reaching her decision, she considered the amount of the theft he is charged with; his continuing record of employment; the absence of a prior criminal record or any mental, drug, or alcohol abuse problem; and the likelihood of him doing it again.

St. Germain, vice president of CMZ of Hawaii Inc., a former tenant at Ewa Villages, was indicted in November 1998 for billing the city $7,648 when he actually paid an electrical contractor $6,024.

Jerel Fonseca, St. Germain's attorney, said his client had signed a handful of forms related to the move at the request of fired city property management chief Michael Kahapea, who was in charge of relocations, and that a payment had been made based on those forms.

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