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Tuesday, January 8, 2002



Judge won’t throw
out Rodrigues’
kickback charge

The union leader says statute
of limitations expired on that charge



By Debra Barayuga
dbarayuga@starbulletin.com

U.S. District Judge David Ezra said United Public Workers state Director Gary Rodrigues' upcoming trial for allegedly defrauding union members will include a more recent charge that he accepted kickbacks from the union's life insurance provider.

Pending an official order, Ezra said today he is inclined to deny Rodrigues' request to dismiss the kickback charge included in the 102-count superseding indictment filed against the union leader and his daughter last month or money laundering charges in a previous indictment.

Rodrigues and his daughter, Robin Haunani Rodrigues Sabatini, were to go to trial Jan. 23 on 43 counts of health care and mail fraud, embezzlement and money laundering. However, Ezra is expected to continue trial to allow the defense and government to prepare for the additional 58 counts, including the kickback charge.

Rodrigues is accused of negotiating contracts in which union members paid inflated premiums for dental and health-care benefits to Hawaii Dental Service and Pacific Group Medical Association. He then allegedly instructed the dental and medical benefit plan providers to pay consultant fees to his daughter without the executive board's knowledge or consent.

The kickback charge alleges Rodrigues received $117,000 on six occasions from 1993 to 1998 from an agent of the life insurance company to influence his decisions in matters concerning UPW's life insurance plan.

Doron Weinberg, Rodrigues' attorney, argued that four of the incidents can't be charged because the statute of limitations have expired and that the government failed to specifically allege the execution of the conduct being charged. The kickback charge should be tried separately because there is no relationship between the conduct alleged and the 101 remaining counts, he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni disagreed, saying all 101 charges involve the same victim -- the union -- and involve Rodrigues and his daughter benefiting directly or indirectly from his actions at the expense of the union.

Richard Hoke, attorney for Sabatini, argued that his client is only charged with receiving and depositing payments into her business accounts and had nothing to do with the remaining charges filed against her father.

He said Sabatini should be tried separately from her father to avoid being unduly prejudiced by the allegations against him.



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