Federal authorities announced Thursday that another former Maui County environmental management official has been charged with accepting bribes as part of a long-running corruption scheme involving Honolulu businessman Milton Choy.

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Wilfred Tamayo Savella, 71, is accused of accepting bribes from Choy while he was working for the Maui County Department of Environmental Management, also known as DEM. According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Savella is alleged to have accepted bribes from Choy between 2013 and 2017 for his role in “initiating, awarding and/or acting as DEM’s primary contact person for sole source contracts issued by Maui County to DEM.”

Federal authorities say the bribes totaling more than $40,000 were made in the form of financial benefits including cash, bank deposits, at least one gambling trip to Las Vegas and casino chips, according to the news release.

In exchange, federal authorities allege, Savella would “assist in the awarding of lucrative sole source contracts and purchase orders to Choy’s company,” the news release said.

Milton Choy had been working with federal investigators for years, according to his attorney. Screenshot: Hawaii Senate

“Mr. Savella was in a position of public trust, and our investigation shows he violated that trust by accepting thousands of dollars in bribes,” FBI Special Agent In-Charge Steve Merrill said in a statement. “These charges should send a very clear message that the FBI will vigorously pursue allegations of corruption at every level.”

Savella couldn’t be reached by phone Thursday evening.

The charges against Savella are the latest in the public corruption scandal involving wastewater systems that has unfolded over the last year. According to his attorney, Choy had been working with the FBI since sometime in 2019, which included his involvement in a case that ended with the convictions of two state lawmakers earlier this year for accepting bribes in exchange for influencing policy related to wastewater and cesspools.

Then in September, Choy pleaded guilty to bribing former Maui County official Stewart Stant in exchange for steering county contracts to his company, H2O Process Systems. Stant, the former director of the Department of Environmental Management, was accused of accepting about $2 million worth of bribes. He also pleaded guilty.

Both men are awaiting sentencing. Choy faces up to 10 years in prison, while Stant could face up to 20 years in prison.

If convicted, Savella faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000, according to the news release. He’s scheduled to appear in court at 11 a.m. on Dec. 5.

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

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