Stewart Stant is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors recommended a sentence of at least nine years for Stewart Stant, a former Maui environmental director who pleaded guilty to taking nearly $2 million in bribes.

Maui County

Stant directed more than $19 million worth of sole-source contracts for improvements to Maui’s wastewater system to H2O Process Systems between 2012 and 2018. The company’s owner, Milton Choy, has pleaded guilty to bribing Stant and at least one other Maui official to help get those contracts.

In a sentencing memorandum filed Friday, prosecutors said Stant “lived quite well” off the bribes provided by Choy, which came in the form of cash payments and direct bank deposits. Choy also paid more than $400,000 to a local travel company on Stant’s behalf, the memo said. Court documents previously showed that Choy also paid for flights to Las Vegas, hotel rooms and gambling chips.

With some of those bribes, Stant spent $187,000 on dining, $60,000 on hostess bars, $54,000 on luxury hotels and “thousands on airfare, jewelry and other items,” the memo said.

“The long running and brazen nature of Stant’s betrayal of the public trust is, in our view, another aggravating factor the Court must consider,” prosecutors wrote in the memo.

The case is one of several recent bribery scandals, including two involving former state lawmakers, that have spurred a movement in the Legislature this session to increase government transparency and ethics.

Stewart Olani Stant stands with his attorney outside District Court.
Federal prosecutors want Stewart Stant to spend between nine and 11 years in prison. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

Stant pleaded guilty to the felony charge of honest services wire fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence set by federal law. But guidelines based on the facts in this particular case dictate that Stant could spend anywhere between 11 and 14 years behind bars.

Sentencing guidelines are determined by a points system that considers mitigating and aggravating factors. Prosecutors and the courts also consider pre-sentencing reports produced by the U.S. Probation Office, which are kept confidential.

Prosecutors recommended that a federal judge consider a range of nine to 11 years in Stant’s case, due in part to his cooperation with the government’s investigation.

“Stant agreed to perform some proactive work on behalf of investigating agents, and quickly accepted responsibility for his actions. Stant’s agreement to remain silent about the government’s ongoing investigation during its investigative stages was likewise beneficial to our efforts,” prosecutors wrote.

How long Stant spends behind bars is ultimately up to U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson. Stant’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Prosecutors asked Watson to enter a sentence that deters bad behavior on the part of government officials and delivers “the message that those who chose to abuse their power to enrich themselves at the expense of the people they serve will face severe penalties.”

Stant’s attorney, Cary Virtue, had not filed a sentencing memorandum recommending a different amount of prison time as of Saturday morning. Virtue couldn’t be reached for comment.

Local Support

Nearly four dozen Maui residents including Stant’s family and friends wrote letters to the court asking for a lighter sentence.

They include former Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, who wrote that he loaned Stant money to start businesses including a nightclub and a marketing business.

“He always repaid me,” Arakawa wrote, also noting that Stant went “over and beyond to care for his parent, his daughters, and his siblings.” He described Stant as “hardworking and intelligent.”

Sasha Stant-Souza, Stewart Stant’s daughter, also wrote a letter to the court, explaining that Stant raised her while he was a single father.

“My father was stable and there for me always, something he has strived to do for so many people,” Stant-Souza wrote.

Other defendants in the Choy bribery cases are also awaiting sentencing.

Ty Cullen, a former state lawmaker who took bribes from Choy in exchange for introducing bills to benefit his company, is scheduled to be sentenced April 6. Wilfredo Savella, a former wastewater employee who helped facilitate the Maui contracts, is set to be sentenced April 20.

Choy himself is scheduled to be sentenced on May 17.

Former Sen. J. Kalani English is currently serving a three year sentence at a federal detention facility on Oregon.

Amid corruption concerns, the House last year created the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct, which has introduced 31 recommendations this year in the areas of campaign donations, ethics and criminal violations.

Lawmakers are also considering bills that would increase the penalty for bribing a government official. Senate Bill 1240, set for a hearing on Tuesday, would make bribery a class B felony with a maximum financial penalty of $250,000. Class B felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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

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