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Honolulu building plans examiner admits to taking bribes

HONOLULU — A Honolulu building plans examiner admitted during a court hearing Wednesday that she expedited a local architect’s projects in exchange for bribes.

Kanani Padeken, who was put on paid leave from the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting, and architect William Wong pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud during separate hearings.

Wong’s attorney, Megan Kau, said previously he was forced to “pay to play” because of greedy employees at the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting.

Four other former and current employees of the department were also charged in the bribery scheme.

Padeken took at least $28,000 in bribes from Wong from 2017 to 2020, prosecutors said. Wong allegedly deposited checks into her account at a credit union and then sent her text messages on her personal cellphone after making the deposits.

He paid the bribes on an almost monthly basis, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan said.

Wong said he also paid about $89,000 in bribes to Wayne Inouye, a now-retired building plans examiner. Inouye previously pleaded not guilty.

“I accepted the money from Mr. Wong as part of an agreement to expedite the review of his projects ahead of others,” Padeken said.

Wong said he regrets “paying a bribe to have my projects move along.”

Padaken and Wong face maximum sentences of 20 years in prison when they are sentenced in August.

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