Investigators from the State Attorney General's office led Richard Namba away yesterday after executing a search warrant for his Salt Lake home.

Anzai says airport
probe growing

He said a kickback scheme
could become the largest waste
of state taxpayer dollars ever

By Rod Antone

State Attorney General Earl Anzai says his department's investigation into an alleged Honolulu Airport maintenance kickback scheme could be the largest waste of state taxpayer dollars ever, with the potential of surpassing the $5.5 million lost in the city's Ewa Villages scandal.

"The scope of the problem seems to be increasing all the time," Anzai said yesterday. "It just seems to be getting bigger and bigger."

Yesterday, state investigators arrested three people whom authorities say were involved in a scheme that inflated the cost of hundreds of maintenance projects and offered kickbacks to some airport employees.

Authorities arrested Richard Okada, administrator of the Airports Division's Visitor Information Program, in a bribery investigation. They also arrested Richard I. Namba, president of R.I. Namba Construction, in a bribery and first-degree theft investigation and his daughter, Jodie Y. Namba, in a first-degree theft investigation. Jodie Namba is the company's vice president.

All three were booked at District Court and released pending investigation.

Investigators for the Attorney General's Office also searched Namba's office at 3445 Ala Akulikuli St. in Salt Lake yesterday and confiscated two computers along with several boxes of financial records and files.

Last week, investigators arrested maintenance superintendent Dennis Hirokawa and airfield and grounds maintenance supervisor Antonio Bio. Hirokawa was arrested for investigation of first-degree theft and bribery, and Bio was arrested for investigation of second-degree theft. Both men also were released pending investigation.

Anzai said that in 1999 between $7 million and $8 million was spent on airport maintenance projects, more than double the $3 million to $4 million usually spent annually by the department.

Most of the work was for small-contract projects under $25,000 and involved minor repairs such as cracks in floors, holes in walls and replacing ceramic tile. Anzai would not say exactly how many projects his department was looking at, only that there were hundreds of them.

"Basically all the projects are suspect," he said.

Though the focus is on the fiscal years 1999 to 2000, Anzai said investigators are looking as far as back 1995 or even earlier. Anzai also said some "contractors" who received kickbacks may have not done any work at all.

"Many or most of them ran their businesses out of their houses and in fact may have subcontracted actual work," Anzai said.

"For example, company X gets the bid, but company X doesn't really have a contractor's yard, equipment, etc., and the work is done by company Z."

Anzai said one company in question received up to $1.6 million in airport maintenance projects over a one-year period. Anzai said he does expect more arrests to be made next week.

Anyone with information related to the small maintenance contracts at the airport is asked to contact the attorney general's Investigation Division at 596-1240.

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