Honolulu’s Former Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro and Businessman Dennis Mitsunaga Indicted in Bribery Scheme
Special Attorneys Michael Wheat (619) 546-8437, Joseph Orabona (619) 546-7951, Janaki Chopra (619) 546-8817, Colin McDonald (619) 546-9144 and Andrew Chiang (619) 546-8756
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – June 17, 2022
HONOLULU – Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Mitsuyoshi Kaneshiro and Honolulu businessman Dennis Mitsunaga are charged in an indictment unsealed today with participating in a bribery scheme in which Mitsunaga and his network of employees and affiliates paid Kaneshiro more than $45,000 in campaign contributions to prosecute one of his former employees and violate that employee’s civil rights.
Kaneshiro and Mitsunaga, owner and CEO of Mitsunaga & Associates, Inc., an engineering and architectural firm, were arrested at their homes this morning and will make their first appearances in federal court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter. Also indicted and arrested today were three of Mitsunaga’s employees - Terri Ann Otani, Aaron Shunichi Fujii and Chad Michael McDonald. All are charged with Conspiracy to Commit Federal Program Bribery and Honest Services Wire Fraud, and Conspiracy Against Rights.
According to the indictment, Mitsunaga wanted a fired employee, identified in court records as L.J.M., to be prosecuted after that employee filed a federal discrimination suit against Mitsunaga’s company. In order to influence the prosecutor’s office to open an investigation and file charges, Mitsunaga steered tens of thousands of dollars to Kaneshiro’s reelection campaigns between 2012 and 2016. In doing so, Mitsunaga circumvented campaign contribution limits by asking for contributions from family members, business partners, employees and subcontractors. The accusations against L.J.M. were baseless and motivated by a desire to intimidate L.J.M., the indictment said.
According to the indictment, in the summer of 2014, after a senior deputy prosecutor in Kaneshiro’s office recommended declining charges against L.J.M., Kaneshiro reassigned the case to a recently hired deputy prosecuting attorney, identified in court records as J.D. Around December 1, 2014, acting on behalf of Kaneshiro, J.D. filed a felony information against L.J.M., charging L.J.M. with four counts of second-degree theft under State of Hawaii law.
The prosecution of L.J.M. continued for several years until her case was dismissed with prejudice in a written order by Hawaii Circuit Judge Karen T. Nakasone on September 15, 2017. The order of dismissal pointed out the “one-sided nature of the investigation” and the fact that the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney “was little more than acting as the recipient of, and conduit for” submissions provided by Mitsunaga & Associates.
The indictment alleges that in exchange for the contributions given to him by defendants Mitsunaga, Otani, Fujii, McDonald and others, Kaneshiro agreed to take official action and exercise his authority as the Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu to open an investigation into and prosecute L.J.M.
“This indictment alleges a Honolulu businessman and others paid more than $45,000 in campaign contributions to Honolulu’s former Prosecuting Attorney to prosecute a former employee,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman in the Southern District of California. “Public officials must conduct their affairs honestly and with integrity. The Department of Justice will work to hold accountable anyone who betrays that duty through the influence of bribes.” Grossman thanked the FBI in Honolulu and the prosecution team for their work on this case.
“The citizens of Hawaii deserve a government free of corruption,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven B. Merrill of the FBI’s Honolulu Division. “Corruption erodes the public trust and the FBI is committed to ensuring that people cannot buy prosecutions in the State of Hawaii. Thanks to U.S. Attorney Grossman and the prosecution team for their teamwork and commitment to justice.”
DEFENDANTS Case No. CR 22-00048-JMS
Keith Mitsuyoshi Kaneshiro Age: 72 Honolulu, HI
Dennis Mitsunaga Age: 78 Honolulu, HI
Terri Ann Otani Age: 66 Honolulu, HI
Aaron Shunichi Fujii Age: 64 Honolulu, HI
Chad Michael McDonald Age: 50 Kaneohe, HI
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Fraud and Federal Program Bribery – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371
Maximum penalty: Five years in prison
Conspiracy Against Rights – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241
Maximum penalty: Ten years in prison
*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.