The politically connected former president of an Oahu veterinary clinic has admitted she improperly obtained drugs for animals using the credentials of an unknowing veterinarian who no longer worked there.
Earlier this year, Alicia Maluafiti was charged with 27 counts of using a Drug Enforcement Administration registration issued to another person, a felony. If convicted, Maluafiti would have faced up to four years in prison for each count.
But on Wednesday, prosecutors agreed to dismiss that indictment in exchange for Maluafiti pleading guilty to a misdemeanor possession charge. The penalty for that offense is no more than a year in prison, a fine between $1,000 and $100,000 and mandatory supervised release for up to one year.
In a plea agreement, Maluafiti admitted that “at the defendant’s direction,” the clinic used the vet’s registration number to obtain controlled substances including ketamine and diazepam. This occurred on at least 27 occasions between 2018 and 2020, the agreements states.
“The defendant knew that she unlawfully possessed those controlled substances, which were stored at premises that she maintained and controlled,” the plea agreement states.
A message left with Maluafiti on Thursday evening was not returned. Her attorney Megan Kau declined to comment.
A longtime lobbyist for influential organizations, Maluafiti’s clients included genetically modified food and pesticide companies, the Hawaii Board of Realtors and the Hawaii Medical Service Association. She was also a frequent donor to political campaigns, giving more than $56,000 to candidates since 2007, according to campaign finance data.
Maluafiti even ventured into politics herself, running for state Senate in 2018. Although she lost, her campaign was supported by Senate President Ron Kouchi, who called Maluafiti a “friend,” and Senate Vice President Michelle Kidani.
Both Kidani and former state Rep. Ryan Yamane have sat on Poi Dogs & Popoki’s board, according to its tax filings. And the organization received tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.
At the time of Maluafiti’s crime, she was a member of the Hawaii Board of Veterinary Medicine. Former Gov. David Ige twice appointed her to that group, the state body in charge of licensing veterinarians.
In an interview with Civil Beat earlier this year, Maluafiti acknowledged she continued to use a vet’s credentials even after he left the nonprofit practice. However, she claimed she had his permission. The vet, Richard “Jim” Brown, denied this.
Nevertheless, Maluafiti said she didn’t know it was wrong and that the drugs were necessary to help animals in need of spay and neuter services.
“This is all about my love of animals,” she said. “I don’t profit from any of this.”
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