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Former Maui County official charged in bribery scheme with businessman Milton Choy

2015 Director of Environmental Management Stewart Stant
Maui County
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FILE - Stewart Stant at a swearing-in ceremony as director of environmental management on Dec. 16, 2015.

A former Maui County department head has been federally charged alongside Honolulu wastewater businessman Milton Choy in a bribery scheme, U.S. Attorney for Hawaiʻi Clare Connors announced Thursday.

Stewart Stant, the former head of Maui County’s Department of Environmental Management, was charged with honest bribery. He allegedly accepted more than $2 million worth of bribes, travel expenses and casino chips from Choy between October 2012 to December 2018.

In exchange, Stant played a role in steering and awarding more than $19 million in sole-source contracts to Choy’s company, H2O Process Systems, LCC.

Choy is charged separately for bribery of a local official in this case.

During a press conference Thursday, Connors said this is one of the largest bribery cases her office has investigated.

Connors said that despite county requirements to disclose gifts, Stant did not, which "deprived the citizens of Maui County of their right to his honest and conflict free services as a public official," according to a Department of Justice release.

“If you look at his various disclosures, none of the monetary benefits that he received from Mr. Choy were disclosed during the period of the conspiracy,” Connors said. “These bribes, as I said paid off, Mr. Choy’s business H2O Process Systems received substantial work, substantial contracts, and those are set forth in the information.”

Stant allegedly accepted $773,176 in checks, $644,570 in cash deposits, and more than $400,000 in travel benefits, which included trips to Las Vegas.

“These were thousands of dollars worth of gambling casino chips that were provided to Mr. Stant by Mr. Choy, also hotels and other benefits such as that,” Connors said.

Connors said that despite these disclosures not being made, investigators were alerted to the potential scheme.

“This was reported to us by somebody who saw something and didn't think it looked right, saw a substantial amount of work going to one particular company, so a lot of money being received by this company and it didn't look right,” Connors said. “So they reported it to law enforcement. That's where and how we began this investigation. We looked at and we agreed there was a lot of money that was going to one particular company.”

In a separate case, Choy was previously named as part of another bribery case involving former state lawmakers J. Kalani English and Ty Cullen. Connors said Choy has been cooperative in these investigations.

“Mr. Choy was one of the first individuals arrested, he engaged in cooperation early on,” Connors said. “It has led to a number of prosecutions that have already been reported on.”

Stant will be required to forfeit $2 million and may face up to 20 years in prison with a maximum fine of $250,000.

Choy may face up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Prosecutors said he would need to forfeit $15 million.

Both Choy and Stant will be arraigned on Monday in federal district court.

Choy took responsibility for his actions and admitted everything he did to federal investigators, said his attorney Michael Green.

“He gave unprotected statements — that’s where you don’t ask for a lawyer and you sit down with the agents and tell them what you did. And he did that. And he was he candid the whole time and told them everything he knew about corruption,” Green said.

Messages left for Stant on various social media sites were not immediately returned. Listed phone numbers had been disconnected.

The Associated Press contribued to this report.

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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