HPD auto parts scam
nets part-time jail term

By Debra Barayuga

The retired head of the Honolulu Police Department's vehicle maintenance section was sentenced to five years' probation and 12 consecutive weekends in prison for purchasing more than $43,000 in auto parts at inflated prices without the city's permission.

Victor Hasebe must serve 12 weekends in jail and pay $13,000 in restitution.

Victor Hasebe, 57, pleaded no contest in August to first- and second-degree theft and money laundering.

Hasebe was one of two civilian HPD employees indicted in April 2001 on charges they funneled about 75 percent of the Police Department's business to Larry's Auto Parts in Kaimuki in exchange for Las Vegas trips and high-performance auto parts for their personal use.

Hasebe circumvented city bidding procedures and purchased $33,000 worth of auto parts for police vehicles from Larry's at inflated prices and about $10,000 worth of high-performance auto parts, presumably for personal use. According to prosecutors, Larry's received about $866,000 in HPD's business from July 1993 to August 1999.

Circuit Judge Richard Perkins denied Hasebe's request to defer his no-contest plea, which would have allowed him to wipe the conviction off his record if he complies with the judge's conditions. Perkins also ordered Hasebe to perform 300 hours of community service and pay a $2,500 fine and $13,000 in restitution to the city.

Defense attorney Clifford Hunt, who had argued for no jail time, said afterward that the sentence Hasebe received was "harsh" and disproportionate to the sentences of three other defendants in the case who received no prison time.

Winston Owan, who worked under Hasebe, received a deferral of his no-contest plea to first- and second-degree theft. He was accused of purchasing auto parts at inflated prices and submitting fraudulent billings to procure high-performance parts.

John and Vernon Isono, of Larry's Auto Parts, pleaded guilty to second-degree theft for obtaining payments from the city they would not otherwise have received had Hasebe not done business with them.

They were each fined $2,500 and ordered to pay $3,333 in restitution.

Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee argued that Hasebe should receive one year in prison because he was a high-ranking city official who breached his duty and defrauded the city.

The defense's argument that the money was spent to make the Police Department run more efficiently does not justify Hasebe's actions, Lee said.

According to co-defendant Owan, the department chose to do business with Larry's because they provided parts in a timely manner and researched the specifications for parts, which other vendors did not, Hunt said.

While there is no dispute the Isonos did profit from the scheme and Owan was following Hasebe's orders, they would not have been involved in the first place had Hasebe not brought them in, Lee said. "He was in the position of authority."

While the amount of the theft is relatively small compared with other white-collar cases, "you don't abuse your authority to circumvent the system," Lee said.

Not only were taxpayers hurt by having to pay more for auto parts, but so were the businesses who played by the city's rules but did not get selected because Hasebe decided to circumvent the procedures, he said.

When Hasebe took over the motor pool in 1982, he implemented an automated system, organized the motor pool's move from Pawaa to the new station on Beretania Street and reduced the repair turnaround time to days from weeks, Hunt said.

E-mail to City Desk


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