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 pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud.

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William Wong, the architect charged with bribing her, is scheduled for a court hearing later Wednesday.

His 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.

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“I accepted the money from Mr. Wong as part of an agreement to expedite the review of his projects ahead of others,” Padeken said. She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison when she is sentenced on Aug. 4.

Padeken and the two other current city employees were put on paid leave, pending the outcome of the cases. Two others are retired. A Honolulu spokesman didn’t immediately comment on Padeken’s guilty plea.

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