Thursday, September 20, 2001

Construction firm
owner gets probation
in Ewa Villages scam

By Debra Barayuga

The owner of a construction and remodeling company that did more than $600,000 of repair work at Ewa Villages was sentenced yesterday to five years' probation and ordered to pay $67,915 restitution and perform 400 hours of community service.

Donna Hashimoto-Abelaye, 51, of Specialty Pacific Builders Inc., pleaded no contest in April 1999 to first-degree theft, money laundering and failing to report income.

The state accused her company of overbilling the city for relocation work at Ewa Villages.

She is the last co-defendant tied to convicted city housing official Michael Kahapea to be sentenced in the Ewa Villages fraud.

Hashimoto-Abelaye contends the contracts her company was awarded and did work on at Ewa Villages were enforceable and legitimate city projects intended to restore the plantation to its historical significance, said her attorney, Richard Hoke.

City workers even inspected the work, he said.

While she did observe questionable irregularities in business practices, such as being told she did not need building permits or being required to pay cash to subcontractors when she was not the general contractor, they did not amount to criminal activity, Hoke said.

Hashimoto-Abelaye told the court yesterday she has learned a big lesson.

"She learned she needs to be more scrupulous and know the procedures before taking on big contracts like that," Hoke said.

The state contends that $854,047 was the total amount the city paid to Specialty Pacific Builders. But Circuit Judge Richard Perkins valued the work performed by Hashimoto-Abelaye at $619,071. The difference was divided between her and co-defendants Kahapea and Russ Williams, who died before he could go to trial.

While she was one of seven co-defendants who aided in the theft of money from the city, she did take responsibility and was willing to cooperate in the investigation against Kahapea, said Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee.

Six others have pleaded no contest to similar charges. They have received sentences ranging from five years' probation to one year in jail and have been ordered to pay restitution totaling nearly $900,000.

Kahapea, the alleged mastermind of the scheme in which the city paid more than $5.8 million to moving companies for work that was either not done or was done at inflated costs, was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday to determine the amount of restitution he should pay. The state has asked that he repay $3.7 million -- an amount he personally benefited from and used to pay gambling debts, loans and other expenses.

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