From left, attorney Robert Klein, state Rep. Nathan Suzuki and attorney Paul Wong made their way to federal court yesterday afternoon for Suzuki's arraignment.

Lawmaker pleads innocent

By Debra Barayuga

State Rep. Nathan Suzuki pleaded not guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to charges he lied on his federal tax returns and failed to disclose he had interests in overseas accounts linked to isle businessman Michael Boulware, who was recently convicted of tax evasion.

The lawmaker declined comment yesterday after his arraignment. But one of his attorneys, Robert Klein, said outside the courthouse that Suzuki "looks forward to his day in court, and we'll vigorously oppose the charges."

Suzuki, a certified public accountant and former comptroller for Boulware's company, Hawaiian Isles Enterprises -- a major distributor of wholesale coffee, tobacco and vending machines -- had helped set up the foreign corporations in Hong Kong and Tonga for Boulware and had authority over the corporation's accounts, according to the indictment.

At Boulware's tax evasion trial last November, prosecutors contended Boulware laundered money through the corporation's accounts to avoid tax liability.

Boulware was sentenced last month in U.S. District Court to four years and three months for lying on his tax returns and failing to report $10 million in personal income that he funneled from his own company for his own use.

U.S. Magistrate Kevin Chang ordered Suzuki to post a $100,000 unsecured bond, the same amount Boulware was ordered to post before he was released pending an appeal of his case.

Special attorney Ted Groves of the Justice Department's Tax Division argued for a higher bond amount, saying $250,000 was more appropriate for Suzuki, who controlled overseas accounts with disbursements of $4 million that were used by two convicted felons.

Groves did not mention the felons by name. He apparently was referring to Boulware and Michael Norton, a California distributor of Kona coffee who was convicted for his role in a scheme to distribute 3.5 million pounds of mislabeled Kona coffee nationwide between 1987 and 1996, a source said.

Klein said he saw no reason why Suzuki's bond should be any higher than Boulware's, and assured the court his client will abide by the court's conditions.

Chang did not rule on a request by prosecutors that Suzuki have no contact with a list of 17 potential government witnesses.

Trial for Suzuki was set for Sept. 4 before Judge Helen Gillmor.

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