Former public official, Na Leo TV executive pleads guilty to embezzlement and bribery


HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – A former Hilo public servant pleaded guilty on Wednesday to embezzlement and corruption.

Stacy Higa, 58, is the former CEO of Na Leo TV on the island of Hawaii, a public access station. He admitted in federal court to embezzling over $ 38,000 from AmeriCorps. He also admitted to offering a bribe in exchange for coronavirus aid grants.

The case was also linked to Hanalei Aipoalani, who was sentenced to almost four years in prison for embezzlement of public funds and corruption.

Following Higa’s guilty plea, he now faces up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $ 200,000. His guilty plea requires him to pay over $ 38,600 in restitution to AmeriCorps and an identical amount in a forfeiture judgment.

Higa is expected to be sentenced in January 2022.

“This defendant admitted to taking money under programs designed to help the most vulnerable Americans,” Acting US Attorney Phillips said. “The United States Department of Justice will aggressively prosecute and seek to hold accountable those individuals who choose to abuse their position of power to enrich themselves at the expense of the American people. “

AmeriCorps Inspector General Jeffrey added, “Again and again, Stacy Higa has betrayed her neighbors, the people of Hawaii and American taxpayers to serve her greed and vanity by embezzling funds set aside to help communities in need.

The investigation found that Higa, a former Hawaii County Council member and mayoral candidate, embezzled the funds while serving as executive director of a state commission tasked with dispersing federal money.

Prosecutors said he approved contracts and purchase orders between the state commission and two companies he operated without disclosing his role with them. He then spent the money on personal expenses, including approximately $ 20,000 for optional cosmetic dental care.

“Our communities place great trust and responsibility in our public figures. Stacy Higa ultimately betrayed that trust when he abused his power to embezzle federal funds and participate in bribes, ”said FBI Special Agent in Charge Merrill. “The FBI will not tolerate these crimes and will hold the perpetrators accountable. “

[Read a related report: Hawaii Island public access television CEO on leave; fraud investigation deepens]

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