Former Honolulu building inspector gets 5 years in bribery scheme

The former city chief building inspector was sentenced to five years in federal prison and fined $100,000 for accepting $103,000 in bribes from a Honolulu architect and contractors to pre-screen and expedite permit approvals.

Wayne Inouye, 66, a 38-year veteran of the city’s Planning and Permitting Department, pleaded guilty Oct. 17 to accepting $103,000 in bribes to prescreen plans and expedite permit approvals for contractors and an architect.

US District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi sentenced him to 60 months on each of the seven counts, to be served concurrently. He also ordered Inouye to serve 24 months of supervised release for each charge, to be served concurrently.

You must also pay a special assessment of $700.

“The integrity of all government employees is diminished by the criminal acts of those who compromise their positions for personal gain,” US Attorney Clare E. Connors said in a statement to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “The court’s ruling reflects the damage done to public trust and the need to prevent such conduct from happening in the future. One of our office’s top priorities remains uncovering public corruption and holding accountable all involved in such crimes.”

Assistant United States Attorneys Craig S. Nolan and Michael D. Nammar prosecuted the government’s case following an investigation by the FBI.

“The public deserves ethical and transparent institutions and officials,” Steven Merrill, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Honolulu field office, said in a statement to the Star-Advertiser. “The FBI continues to vigorously pursue criminals who attempt to violate the public trust.”

Inouye retired from city service in 2017 and was indicted on March 17, 2021. He created a company to help take bribes and told an FBI agent and an assistant US attorney on July 11, 2019 that the $100,000 he received was a loan from “Architect 1,” according to federal court documents.

Inouye, who did not reach a plea deal with federal prosecutors, faced up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of probation for each count of honest services wire fraud. He faced five years in federal prison for lying to investigators.

“Mr. Inouye accepted responsibility and apologized to the community today in court. It is easy to judge a man based on a mistake in a law-abiding life,” Inouye’s attorney, Thomas Otake, told the Star-Advertiser. after sentencing “Those who know Mr. Inouye best know that he is a kind and good person at heart.”

DPP Director Dawn Takeuchi Apuna said in a statement to the Star-Advertiser: “The sentencing of this former employee reinforces our position of zero tolerance for accepting bribes or providing favoritism as public servants. Our citizens deserve fair and honest service from government employees, and we will continue to seek out and eliminate those who ignore this basic principle.

“This also serves as a message to those seeking DPP favoritism that this activity is not tolerated. It is unfortunate that the illegal acts of a few tarnish the reputation of the vast majority of employees who work hard every day to serve the public with the highest ethical standard.”

Otake wrote in a sentencing memo filed May 24 that the dozens of letters sent by family, friends and county co-workers reveal a compassionate and caring man who has never been in trouble with the law and was revered for his ethics of work and experience.

Inouye took a proposal to create a for-profit side company to pre-screen construction plans before submitting them to the DPP to the Honolulu Ethics Commission, and the commission “did not tell Mr. Inouye he couldn’t do it.”

“Architect 1,” William Wong, 73, approached Inouye about the setup and paid him the most money, Otake wrote. Inouye met with Wong at a coffee shop or other off-duty locations outside of business hours to go over the plans and tell Wong how to make them code compliant.

Inouye acknowledges that the deal could have been a legitimate business if he had not been employed and received a salary from the city. Inouye reimbursed Wong $120,000 prior to his indictment, Otake wrote. In an effort to hide the bribery scheme from him, Inouye paid Wong in October 2017 after learning that the FBI was investigating corruption at DPP, according to the US Department of Justice.

Inouye assisted Wong and two other Honolulu businesses between February 2012 and September 2017. The bribes included $89,205.81 from Wong, $5,250 from a signage contractor, and $9,685 from a construction contractor.

Inouye used a sole proprietorship called SKI and Associates, a personal cell phone and in-person meetings at locations other than DPP to carry out the plan, and failed to inform DPP about the kickbacks he received in exchange for expediting project approvals, according to federal court documents.

Inouye claimed he had borrowed $100,000 from Wong for a real estate auction and paid him back with interest, according to the Justice Department.

Inouye admitted during his guilty plea that Wong’s payments were bribes.

Wong pleaded guilty on April 7, 2021 to a single count of honest services wire fraud for paying more than $89,000 in bribes and will be sentenced on December 1.

Wong and Inouye are two of the five people involved in the bribery scheme.

On May 17, Jocelyn Godoy, 60, was working in the DPP’s Data Access and Imaging Branch when she allegedly solicited and accepted bribes from an architect and a third-party reviewer, according to court records. She pleaded guilty to a single count of honest services wire fraud before Chief US District Judge Derrick K. Watson.

Godoy, a current city employee, faces up to 20 years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, a period of supervised release of up to three years and a $100 special assessment. Watson will sentence her at 9 am on August 30. She will remain on supervised release prior to her sentencing.

On June 27, Watson sentenced former building plan examiner Jennie Javonillo, 73, to two and a half years in prison and two years of federal probation for soliciting and accepting bribes to expedite permit applications.

Watson also ordered Javonillo to pay a $5,000 fine and a $100 special assessment. The judge previously ordered him to turn over $58,000 to the government as part of a plea agreement. He pleaded guilty Jan. 25 to one count of honest services wire fraud in exchange for the government dropping two identical charges.

Jason Dadez, 45, a former DPP building inspector, pleaded guilty Feb. 14 to one charge involving accepting a $1,000 check from the owners of a Waipahu restaurant and corresponding with an architect about a residence in Ala Wai. Boulevard.

On July 6, he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.

Kanani Padeken, 38, a DPP building plan examiner who pleaded guilty in April 2021 to wire fraud charges and admitted receiving at least $28,000 in bribes, will be sentenced by Watson at 9 a.m. on August 22.

The story was updated to include a comment from DPP director Dawn Takeuchi Apuna.