SHORT VERSION: Well-known political operator Dennis Mitsunaga allegedly bribed then-Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro to frame up Laural J Mau, a former Mitsunaga employee, who in 2012 had filed an unsuccessful federal sex harassment suit against Mistunaga and Associates (1:2012cv00468).
After receiving many campaign contributions from Mitsunaga and Associates, Kaneshiro's office in December, 2014, filed theft charges against Mau.
The theft charges were dismissed in 2017. See: Judge Blasts Honolulu Prosecutors Over Handling Of Theft Case -- "Judge Nakasone said a private company appeared to have 'orchestrated the vast majority of the investigation' of its former employee."
Kaneshiro received a 'target letter' in 2018.
A search of the Hawaii CSC database shows 401 campaign contributions totalling $749,488.82 from persons associated with Mitsunaga & Associates since 2006.
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Honolulu’s Former Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro and Businessman Dennis Mitsunaga Indicted in Bribery Scheme
News Release from USDoJ Southern District of California, June 17, 2022
HONOLULU – Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Mitsuyoshi Kaneshiro and Honolulu businessman Dennis Mitsunaga are charged in an indictment unsealed today with participating in a bribery scheme in which Mitsunaga and his network of employees and affiliates paid Kaneshiro more than $45,000 in campaign contributions to prosecute one of his former employees and violate that employee’s civil rights.
Kaneshiro and Mitsunaga, owner and CEO of Mitsunaga & Associates, Inc., an engineering and architectural firm, were arrested at their homes this morning and will make their first appearances in federal court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter. Also indicted and arrested today were three of Mitsunaga’s employees - Terri Ann Otani, Aaron Shunichi Fujii and Chad Michael McDonald. All are charged with Conspiracy to Commit Federal Program Bribery and Honest Services Wire Fraud, and Conspiracy Against Rights.
According to the indictment, Mitsunaga wanted a fired employee, identified in court records as L.J.M., to be prosecuted after that employee filed a federal discrimination suit against Mitsunaga’s company. In order to influence the prosecutor’s office to open an investigation and file charges, Mitsunaga steered tens of thousands of dollars to Kaneshiro’s reelection campaigns between 2012 and 2016. In doing so, Mitsunaga circumvented campaign contribution limits by asking for contributions from family members, business partners, employees and subcontractors. The accusations against L.J.M. were baseless and motivated by a desire to intimidate L.J.M., the indictment said.
According to the indictment, in the summer of 2014, after a senior deputy prosecutor in Kaneshiro’s office recommended declining charges against L.J.M., Kaneshiro reassigned the case to a recently hired deputy prosecuting attorney, identified in court records as J.D. Around December 1, 2014, acting on behalf of Kaneshiro, J.D. filed a felony information against L.J.M., charging L.J.M. with four counts of second-degree theft under State of Hawaii law.
The prosecution of L.J.M. continued for several years until her case was dismissed with prejudice in a written order by Hawaii Circuit Judge Karen T. Nakasone on September 15, 2017. The order of dismissal pointed out the “one-sided nature of the investigation” and the fact that the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney “was little more than acting as the recipient of, and conduit for” submissions provided by Mitsunaga & Associates.
The indictment alleges that in exchange for the contributions given to him by defendants Mitsunaga, Otani, Fujii, McDonald and others, Kaneshiro agreed to take official action and exercise his authority as the Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu to open an investigation into and prosecute L.J.M.
“This indictment alleges a Honolulu businessman and others paid more than $45,000 in campaign contributions to Honolulu’s former Prosecuting Attorney to prosecute a former employee,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman in the Southern District of California. “Public officials must conduct their affairs honestly and with integrity. The Department of Justice will work to hold accountable anyone who betrays that duty through the influence of bribes.” Grossman thanked the FBI in Honolulu and the prosecution team for their work on this case.
“The citizens of Hawaii deserve a government free of corruption,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven B. Merrill of the FBI’s Honolulu Division. “Corruption erodes the public trust and the FBI is committed to ensuring that people cannot buy prosecutions in the State of Hawaii. Thanks to U.S. Attorney Grossman and the prosecution team for their teamwork and commitment to justice.”
DEFENDANTS Case No. CR 22-00048-JMS
- Keith Mitsuyoshi Kaneshiro Age: 72 Honolulu, HI
- Dennis Mitsunaga Age: 78 Honolulu, HI
- Terri Ann Otani Age: 66 Honolulu, HI
- Aaron Shunichi Fujii Age: 64 Honolulu, HI
- Chad Michael McDonald Age: 50 Kaneohe, HI
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
- Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Fraud and Federal Program Bribery – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371 Maximum penalty: Five years in prison
- Conspiracy Against Rights – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241 Maximum penalty: Ten years in prison
AGENCY -- FBI
*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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Ex-Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro arrested by FBI in connection with ongoing public corruption scandal
HNN: … Former city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro has been arrested by the FBI as part of the years-long public corruption probe that also resulted in the conviction of ex-Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine.
Kaneshiro self-surrendered to authorities just before 6 a.m. Friday at his condo in Waialae and was escorted by FBI agents.
He was indicted on the following counts:
- Conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and federal program bribery
- and conspiracy against rights
The longtime public official received a target letter from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2018, when he too became a focus of the corruption case. He was on paid leave for two years before his term expired and Steve Alm was elected to replace him.
In addition to Kaneshiro, the indictment names multiple defendants connected to engineering firm Mitsunaga and Associates, including Dennis Mitsunaga himself and firm Executive Director Terri Ann Otani, who arrested Thursday night.
The employees of the firm and their families have donated thousands of dollars to Kaneshiro’s campaigns in the years he was running as prosecutor. The last person to testify at the grand jury on June 2 was Dwight Nadamoto, Kaneshiro’s ex-first deputy. In the weeks leading up to the indictment, other close allies of Kaneshiro were also called in to testify….
read … Ex-Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro arrested by FBI in connection with ongoing public corruption scandal
PDF: INDICTMENT Case 1:22-cr-00048-JMS
SA Editorial: More charges of public corruption
Big Q: What’s your reaction to the corruption charges against former city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro?
ILind: Former Honolulu prosecutor indicted in alleged conspiracy scheme with Mitsunaga & Associates -- "There are a lot of layers to this onion. It will be interesting as they are peeled off. So much more to tell."
KHON: Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney indicted for involvement in ongoing public corruption scandal
HNN: Prosecutors: Kaneshiro, alleged co-conspirators tried to frame woman for crime
HNN: Ex-City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro pleads not guilty following arrest in sprawling corruption probe
SA: Federal prosecutors out of San Diego secured an indictment under seal against Kaneshiro and others two weeks ago and served it today.
SA: FBI agents arrest former Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, executive Dennis Mitsunaga on conspiracy charges
2017: Judge Blasts Honolulu Prosecutors Over Handling Of Theft Case