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Former Hawaiʻi Island public access TV exec pleads guilty to embezzlement, bribery

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Former Hawaiʻi County Council member and Nā Leo TV executive Stacy Higa pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to embezzlement and bribery charges.

Higa admitted to embezzling more than $38,000 in federal funding from the national service program AmeriCorps by authorizing contracts and signing purchase orders to himself.

He spent those funds on personal expenses, including approximately $20,000 worth of elective aesthetic dental care.

Higa also admitted to bribing a Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) program administrator in Honolulu with financial benefits in exchange for approval of his grant applications totaling $845,000.

Both charges carry maximums of 10 years in prison and financial penalties. Higa’s sentencing is scheduled for January 13, 2022.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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