Thursday, July 29, 2004

Judge delays sentencing
of former legislator

The move puts off a ruling on
the severity of Suzuki's crimes

Former state Rep. Nathan Suzuki is asking that he be placed on probation or serve no more than six months in federal prison for being a co-conspirator in a scheme to defraud the government.

Nathan Suzuki: He admitted to conspiring with a businessman to avoid tax liability

Federal prosecutors say he should serve a sentence on the high end of sentencing guidelines -- 57 to 71 months.

But because of a ruling last week by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals barring federal judges from increasing a defendant's sentence based on facts not found by a jury, visiting District Judge Edward Rafeedie continued Suzuki's sentencing yesterday to Nov. 15 in hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will have ruled on expedited appeals in a similar case.

"In fairness to the government, the defendant should not be allowed to take advantage of intervening law for purposes of getting a lighter sentence," Rafeedie said.

He noted that the offense "is too serious to justify a sentence of zero to six months."

In a plea agreement reached in April, Suzuki, 56, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Honolulu businessman Michael Boulware to set up two offshore corporations and bank accounts in Tonga and Hong Kong for Boulware to avoid tax liability.

Suzuki, a certified public accountant who was comptroller for Boulware's company in the early to mid-1980s, was majority owner of the foreign corporations. Prosecutors said he failed to report his financial interests in the foreign corporations and accounts.

Suzuki also admitted to using his state Capitol office fax machine to wire authorizations transferring money from the accounts that ended up in Boulware's personal Hawaii accounts.

Edward Groves, special attorney with the Department of Justice's Tax Division, said the government intends to hold Suzuki responsible for about $1.5 million in state, federal and corporate tax loss during the conspiracy from June 1993 to February 2000.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Suzuki is subject to various enhancements, such as abuse of trust for using his Capitol fax machine to run the offshore corporations, Groves said.

But the plea agreement caps the maximum sentence Suzuki can receive at five years because he pleaded guilty to the conspiracy, which is punishable by a maximum five-year prison term.

Suzuki's attorney, Bill Harrison, contends that while Suzuki agreed to preparing the tax returns and the transfer of money in the conspiracy, there was no tax loss.

Boulware was convicted in 2001 of lying on his tax returns and failing to report $10 million in personal income that he funneled from his successful vending machine and coffee distribution company, Hawaiian Isles Enterprises. He was sentenced to four years and three months in prison but is free pending an appeal.

Suzuki decided not to seek another term to represent Moanalua after he was indicted in 2002. He is currently doing consulting work, Harrison said.


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