The FBI arrests a lawyer for a prominent Hawaii deal as part of a broadening corruption investigation

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – There has been another arrest in the high-profile federal case against former city attorney Keith Kaneshiro, Hawaii News Now has learned.

Early Tuesday morning, the FBI advanced on the home of attorney Sheri Tanaka in California and took her into custody in connection with the alleged conspiracy.

Tanaka represents Mitsunaga & Associates, the engineering and architecture firm embroiled in the public corruption scandal.

Tanaka was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday last week.


Hawaii News Now was in the courtroom when the jury chief announced the replacement charges and Assistant US Attorney Michael Wheat asked the magistrate for an arrest warrant.

Tanaka was previously named co-conspirator No. 1 in the original June indictment.

Kaneshiro and Dennis Mitsunaga were charged with conspiracy and bribery along with employees of Mitsunaga’s company – Terri Otani, Chad McDonald and Aaron Fujii.

According to the indictment, the company’s employees contributed nearly $50,000 to Kaneshiro’s re-election campaigns between 2012 and 2016. In turn, Kaneshiro allegedly prosecuted a former employee of Mitsunaga’s company for a crime she did not commit.

The employee had sued the company for discrimination.

A federal judge ultimately dismissed the criminal charges against the former employee for a lack of probable cause.

Records show that Tanaka wrote three letters to Kaneshiro’s office in 2013, one in January, February and then July, accusing the former employee of theft.

Hawaii News Now has seen Tanaka many times prior to indictment in federal court for grand jury trials.

Attorney Sheri Tanaka with Mitsunaga & Associates associates Steven Wong and Glenn Okino exit federal court(none)

She acted as a representative for all Mistunaga & Associates employees who were called to testify, including those who have since been charged.

Tanaka made it known that she disliked news cameras or media coverage of the case.

“Whoever provided the false information to Hawaii News Now, and you in particular, Lynn Kawano, biased the jury, compromised the grand jury and caused irreparable damage to Mitsunaga & Associates,” she said.

At a hearing Tuesday morning, Tanaka was not interviewed, but the attorneys for the other five defendants were.

They had not yet been presented with the substitute charges, but all pleaded “not guilty” on behalf of their clients. The trial is scheduled for March.

Legal experts said it was highly unusual for a private attorney to be charged along with clients.

“The judiciary would have to approve that,” said retired federal defender Alexander Silvert.

Tanaka will be heard in Los Angeles. Legal experts believe she will be allowed to post bail and then fly to Hawaii to appear in court.

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