Hawaii’s “26th Senator” Tried for Fraud & Embezzlement

Once known as the “26th Senator,” United Public Workers union chief Gary Rodrigues began his trial on 100 counts of mail fraud, defrauding the union’s health & benefit program, and embezzlement on Oct. 2. Also on trial for allegedly accepting kickbacks disguised as consulting fees is Robin Sabatini, Rodrigues’s daughter. Presiding over the jury trial is fed. Judge David Ezra (U.S.D.C. HI, Reagan).

According to Rodrigues’s ex-secy. and girlfriend, Georgietta Carroll, insurance agent Herb Nishida showed up at the union hall almost every month during the 1990s with a white envelope, Afterwards, Carroll testified, Rodrigues would say, “A payment was made,” or “we can go out to dinner tonight,” then take the envelope to a downstairs safe. Nishida himself later testified that he gave Rodrigues an annual average of $20,000 for five years by skimming from commissions he got selling insurance policies to union members.

According to Carroll’s mother, Marietta Loughrin, Rodrigues employed her husband, Al, as a paid “consultant” to the union on its dental plan in 1992. Allegedly, Rodrigues paid Loughrin from union funds as a way of repaying $10,000 he had borrowed from the Loughrins for a sprinkler system.

Federal prosecutors charge that Rodrigues never informed the union of Loughrin’s hiring, nor the hiring of his daughter, Robin, in 1997 to provide analysis of insurance benefits. William Hancock, Robin’s frmr. employer, testified that she formed Four Winds RSK Inc. to take on union business referred by her father. After that, acc. to Hancock, she devoted one to four days a month to her business, while prosecutors said she was making more than $142,000 a year.

U.S. Attny. Florence Nakakuni said that the illegal consulting fees funneled by Rodrigues added up to nearly $200,000. She also said, in her opening statement, that Rodrigues showed “consciousness of guilt” by ordering documents to be shredded after learning of the fed. investigation in 1998. The trial is currently in recess while Judge Ezra presides over a case on the mainland. [Honolulu Advertiser]