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

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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