No trial yet in airport kickback scheme
What ever happened to the federal trial for two former Honolulu Airport officials accused of receiving thousands of dollars in kickbacks in exchange for steering small repair and construction contracts to friends?
Answer: The two former officials and two contractors have yet to go to trial, more than a year after they were indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and mail fraud in an alleged $2.5 million bid-rigging scheme.
Earlier this month, a federal magistrate granted a request to continue the trial to April 2006 for Dennis Hirokawa, former superintendent of maintenance, and Richard Okada, former head of the airport's Visitor Information Program, and contractors Michael Furukawa and Wesley Uemura.
The four were indicted July 28, 2004, in a scheme that allegedly began in July 1997 and continued to June 2001.
All have pleaded not guilty in the case, described by one of the defense attorneys as a "big witch hunt" and an attempt to use the defendants as scapegoats.
"It's all political," said Cliff Hunt, attorney representing Uemura, of the investigation that began with the state attorney general and ended up in the U.S. Attorney's office. "They wanted to lean on contractors and state employees to see if they point the finger at state officials."
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Shipley declined comment.
Dana Ishibashi, attorney for Okada, and Keith Shigetomi, attorney for Hirokawa, say their clients maintain their innocence.
"My client was not involved in the awarding of contracts. He didn't sign anything or tell anybody to sign any approval of any contract, and didn't receive anything, as they are alleging he did in the indictment," Ishibashi said.
Furukawa's attorney, Howard Luke, declined comment.
During the state investigation, the state Attorney General prosecuted six individuals for theft, including a former supervising airport inspector. Their sentencing hearings were put off until the federal case is resolved.
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