Former police worker pleads guilty to theft
By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer
A former Honolulu Police Department food service worker pleaded guilty in Circuit Court yesterday to second-degree theft in connection with an alleged food scam at the department's main cellblock.
Ernest Villanueva faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced April 29.
City Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee said Villanueva, who worked as a civilian employee in the department for seven or eight years, was directed by his supervisors to order and prepare food "under the guise" that it was to be served to detainees in the police cellblock.
Instead the food, which included such specialty items as rack of lamb and prime rib, was allegedly served between 1995 and 2000 to a select group of police officers who worked at the main station on Beretania Street, including Police Chief Lee Donohue and former Chief Michael Nakamura. Both have denied knowing anything was improper about the meals.
Two high-ranking HPD officers, Assistant Chief Rafael Fajardo, 59, and Maj. Jeffrey Owens, 50, were indicted on second-degree theft charges in the case. They pleaded not guilty in August and are scheduled to go to trial in March.
Lee said Villanueva has agreed to testify against Owens and Fajardo if the matter goes to trial.
A fourth person who was investigated, former HPD detective John Spondike, 52, pleaded no contest in October to a charge of second-degree theft and agreed to testify, if necessary, at the trial of Owens and Fajardo.