Mitsunaga lawyer arrested by the federal government in California Denise W. Whigham September 14, 2022 Lawyer firm Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! The attorney for a Honolulu engineering company founder accused of conspiring with the former city attorney to charge an ex-employee with theft in exchange for campaign donations was arrested by federal agents on Tuesday in California. Sheri Jean Tanaka, who represents Mitsunaga & Associates, or MAI, was named in an unsealed first substituted indictment Tuesday in federal court. Tanaka was “arrested in the Central District of California and is currently in custody,” according to a motion to unseal the document, filed by federal prosecutors. Tanaka was licensed in California and Hawaii and was MAI’s “legal representative in administrative, civil and criminal matters,” according to the latest indictment. On October 4, 2012, Tanaka and Dennis Mitsunaga met with former prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and Kaneshiro’s executive assistant to “try to persuade Kaneshiro to investigate and prosecute” Mitsunaga’s former employee. She reportedly gave a letter outlining potential criminal charges to Kaneshiro’s office on January 22, 2013, two days before joining Mitsunaga and Kaneshiro for lunch to discuss the investigation, according to federal prosecutors. Four days later, Tanaka emailed Kaneshiro’s assistant, expressing her pleasure that she and Kaneshiro had lunch with her and Mitsunaga despite their “busy schedules”. “I totally agree… it’s amazing how Mr. Kaneshiro and Mr. Mitsunaga are so alike. They are both incredible individuals with so many accomplishments and such an inspiration to those around them,” according to part of Tanaka’s email cited in the indictment. On June 2, Mitsunaga, 78, was indicted by a federal grand jury along with Kaneshiro, 72, and three others, for conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, bribery under a federal program and conspiracy to violate the rights of the former MAI employee. The first replacement indictment, obtained Thursday, was unsealed Tuesday, allowing federal agents to take Tanaka into custody. Mitsunaga is president and CEO of MAI and a longtime contributor to Hawaii’s political campaigns. Also charged in the original and alternate indictment are Terri Ann Otani, 66, MAI Secretary General and Bureau Chief; Aaron Shunichi Fujii, 64, executive vice president and chief operating officer of MAI; and Chad Michael McDonald, 50, senior vice president of MAI. Kaneshiro, Mitsunaga, Otani, Fujii and McDonald have pleaded not guilty and are free on $50,000 bond pending trial. According to Federal Court documents, all five pleaded not guilty to the first replacement indictment. Their provisional release was upheld. The case is being handled by a special prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney Michael Wheat, and a team of federal prosecutors from San Diego. Wheat did not immediately respond to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser request for comment. Their trial is scheduled for March 21 at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Chief Judge J. Michael Seabright. The allegations outlined in the June 2 indictment stem from MAI’s treatment of former employee Laurel Mau, who sued the company after she was fired in November 2011 because they believed she was working to the side. Mitsunaga and his employees reportedly tried to block Mau’s jobless claims. After a year, a Circuit Court judge ruled that Mau was eligible to receive the benefits. In a lawsuit in August 2012, Mau accused MAI of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. After the October 4, 2012 meeting, Mitsunaga, Otani, Fujii and McDonald, Tanaka and other Mitsunaga family members and employees donated approximately $45,000 to Kaneshiro’s campaign, according to the US Department of Justice. . In July 2014, a federal judge overseeing Mau’s lawsuit and several MAI counterclaims found no liability other than a “breach of loyalty” claim against Mau for which she awarded the company $1. Kaneshiro sued Mau for four counts of theft at the company’s request in December 2014, according to state court records. When an assistant prosecutor told Kaneshiro there was not enough evidence to prosecute Mau, Kaneshiro reportedly reassigned the case to another prosecutor, who charged Mau, according to federal court documents. In July 2017, charges against Mau were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they could not be refiled. Kaneshiro served as a city attorney from 1988 to 1996 and again from 2010 to 2018 before going on paid leave.