Liquor Commission officer
pleads guilty to extortion

He admits to playing a role in
taking bribes to ignore violations

By Debra Barayuga

"Only in America" can someone get paid for not doing their job.

That's what one city Liquor Commission investigator said out loud to fellow investigators before he was handed $100 from one of his supervisors for not citing a Honolulu nightclub for liquor violations.

William Richardson Jr. said Club Junko "had one violation swept under the table," according to tapes secretly recorded by a fellow investigator who went under cover.

Richardson, 48, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of conspiracy and three counts of extorting money in exchange for not citing establishments for liquor violations.

"I took money not to do my job," Richardson told U.S. Magistrate Barry Kurren when asked what he was pleading guilty to.

Richardson was indicted May 22 along with five other investigators and two former supervisors on federal public corruption charges. His admissions were detailed in a plea agreement outlining the conspiracy in which he and codefendants received payments from establishments they were supposed to monitor from sometime before October 2000 to December 2001. According to the indictment, they received payments ranging from $40 to $1,080 per visit at 45 liquor establishments or hostess bars on Oahu.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Seabright said Richardson used his position as investigator to get money from licensees with an understanding that he would not inspect or cite them for violations.

Individuals participating in the conspiracy shared among each other which establishments were paying and distributed the money in the offices of the Honolulu Liquor Commission, Seabright said. They also agreed to commit at least two acts of extortion.

According to the extortion charges, Richardson admitted to receiving $100 on Nov. 13, 2000 from supervisor David Lee who said it was from Club Junko.

Richardson also admitted to receiving an unknown amount from supervisor Harvey Hiranaka on Feb. 9, 2001 from Club Ruby. Richardson in turn gave $100 to the undercover investigator, informing him Hiranaka had obtained it from Club Ruby.

Also on March 28, 2001, a person associated with the Golden Dolls and Club Rock-Za strip clubs gave the undercover investigator $500 to give to Richardson, according to the plea agreement. Richardson was leading an investigation of Golden Dolls at the time.

Richardson's attorney, Don Wilkerson, said his client pleaded guilty because he is genuinely remorseful. "He's anxious to take responsibility for what he did and feels badly about it," he said.

Richardson faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the four counts and a maximum fine of up to $250,000 when sentenced in January.

Richardson has agreed to testify at the trial of his remaining codefendants on Oct. 16. Two other investigators pleaded guilty earlier and will also be sentenced in January.

Liquor Commission

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