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Press Release

Former Maui County Environmental Management Official Charged with Accepting Bribes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Hawaii

HONOLULU – United States Attorney Clare E. Connors and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill announced that an information has been unsealed today charging Wilfred Tamayo Savella, 71, of Maui County, Hawaii, with charges stemming from the operation of a long running bribery scheme. A court appearance for Savella is scheduled for December 5, 2022, at 11:00 a.m.

The information, unsealed today, alleges that a Honolulu based businessman, Milton Choy, bribed Savella while he was a public official with the Maui County Department of Environmental Management (“DEM”), and that between approximately 2013 through 2017, Savella accepted bribes from Choy 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.” The bribes were made with cash, bank deposits, at least one gambling trip to Las Vegas, casino chips, and/or other financial benefits, totaling over $40,000, in exchange for Savella’s agreement, in his official capacity as a County of Maui official at DEM, to assist in the awarding of lucrative sole source contracts and purchase orders to Choy’s company.

Choy pleaded guilty in September 2022, to bribing another Maui County official, Stewart Stant, who also pled guilty in September 2022. Both men are awaiting sentencing.

“Corruption by public officials degrades the integrity of our government institutions and tarnishes the important work done every day by honest public servants,” said United States Attorney Clare E. Connors. “Our office continues to investigate and prosecute corruption at all levels of Hawaii government.”

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

If convicted, Savella faces a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment, and a fine of up to $250,000. An information is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The investigation in the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ken Sorenson and Micah Smith are prosecuting the case.

Updated December 1, 2022

Public Corruption