Honolulu wastewater executive Milton Choy has been charged for allegedly bribing a former Maui County official to win millions of dollars in contracts to upgrade Maui’s wastewater systems.

A pair of federal indictments unsealed Thursday allege that Choy paid Stewart Stant, the former director of Maui’s Department of Environmental Management, more than $2 million worth of cash, gambling chips, travel and hotel benefits.

Stant did not disclose those sources of income on financial disclosure forms he was required to file with the county. U.S. attorneys also allege that Stant filed false income tax returns “in order to further conceal his illicit and corrupt activities.”

Milton Choy was charged last month for bribing a former county official, according to indictments unsealed Thursday. Screenshot: Hawaii Senate

Stant is being charged for his role in steering an estimated $20 million worth of sole source contracts to Choy’s company, H2O Process Systems.

Choy made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed that he bribed two state lawmakers as part of a scheme to influence wastewater legislation.

“Public corruption is the FBI’s No. 1 criminal investigative priority,” Special Agent In-Charge Steve Merrill said at a press conference. “Because corrupt public officials undermine the public’s trust and confidence in our government.”

Michael Green, an attorney for Choy, was in court Thursday morning. He was unavailable to comment on the charges. He previously said he has advised his client to plead guilty.

Stant did not respond to messages left on his cell phone.

Choy is charged with bribery of a government official and Stant is charged with honest services fraud. If found guilty, Choy could be sentenced up to 10-years in prison and face fines up to $250,000.

Stant could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of $200,000. The U.S. Department of Justice is also requiring Stant to forfeit $2 million — equal to the total number of bribes he allegedly took.

The DOJ is seeking forfeitures of up to $15 million in Choy’s case.

Choy and Stant are set to appear in federal court Monday for arraignment, where their charges will be formally read and they will enter pleas.

Bribes Lead To Millions In No-Bid Work

Between 2012 and 2015, Stant was the manager of the Wastewater Reclamation Division. In 2015, he was appointed director of the Department of Environmental Management.

Prosecutors allege that Stant used his position and authority to help steer contracts to Choy’s company in exchange for financial favors.

The bribery scheme took place between October 2012 and December 2018.

Choy made direct deposits to Stant’s bank accounts, and also handed him checks and cash payments.

The federal indictment against Stant lists hundreds of deposits and cash payments Choy made to Stant’s accounts between 2012 and 2018. The direct deposits ranged from $1,000 to upwards of $59,000. The deposits totaled more than $1.3 million.

A photograph of the county building in Wailuku.
Choy allegedly bribed Stewart Stant, a former Maui official, in exchange for nearly $20 million in sole source contracts. Marina Riker/Civil Beat/2022

Choy also gave Stant gambling chips on trips to Las Vegas. Choy allegedly covered more than $400,000 worth of travel expenses for Stant.

Stant has reported earning up to $99,000 a year at the Harrah’s hotel in Las Vegas, according to his financial disclosure forms.

In return for those $2 million worth of bribes, Stant allegedly helped direct nearly $20 million in county wastewater work to Choy’s company.

In the years that Stant was director, Choy’s company won more county contracts than any other business working with the county, a Civil Beat analysis of sole source contracts found.

“They were emboldened to continue their scheme until their greed caught up to them,” Merrill said.

That happened when someone on Maui tipped off the FBI as to what was happening with the sole source contracts. U.S. Attorney Clare Connors said that tip led to a years-long investigation that resulted in charges against Choy and Stant.

“Someone saw something, and they didn’t think it looked right,” Connors said. “We looked at it and we agreed.”

The bribery payments of cash and gambling chips are similar to another federal case Choy was involved in.

Choy was at the center of a bribery case involving two former state lawmakers, who he also bribed with cash payments, hotel rooms and poker chips. He was previously referred to in court documents as “Person A.”

Connors acknowledged Thursday that Choy is in fact “Person A.” He was previously only identified by media.

One of the lawmakers he bribed, J. Kalani English is currently serving a 40-month prison sentence in Oregon. The other, Ty Cullen, is expected to be sentenced in October.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating Choy for years. He cooperated with the FBI and worked as a federal informant to help bring charges against Cullen and English. Connors would not say whether other lawmakers could still be charged as part of the FBI’s investigation.

Information from the indictments and statements from officials at a press conference indicate that there may be other people who are under investigation by the FBI in the Maui bribery case.

“I don’t want to say we’re ever done,” Connors said. “We’re always investigating.”

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

Read the indictments below.

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