Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, February 24, 2005

Former legislator to serve three years

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

Former state Rep. Nathan Suzuki was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday for his role in a federal tax fraud conspiracy that included using resources at his state Capitol office as part of the scheme.

Nathan Suzuki

Visiting U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie of Los Angeles also fined Suzuki $10,000 and ordered him to report to prison April 18.

Suzuki, 56, the Democratic representative of the 31st House District covering Salt Lake and Moanalua from 1992 to 2002, apologized in court yesterday and thanked his family and supporters who had to endure the "long and painful ordeal" because of his conduct.

"I am reminded of it every day," he told Rafeedie.

U.S. Rep. Ed Case and former Gov. Ben Cayetano were among more than 100 people who wrote in support of Suzuki, but Rafeedie said the former legislator used his office resources to commit certain aspects of his crime.

"That is a serious matter," the judge said.

Suzuki pleaded guilty last year to helping create secretly held corporations and bank accounts in Tonga and Hong Kong to hide $3 million in assets of Honolulu businessman Michael Boulware.

Federal prosecutors said Suzuki used his office fax machine to facilitate the transfer of money to those accounts and went to Tonga to try to block attempts by the federal grand jury here to obtain documents.

The sentencing in Suzuki's case had been postponed pending the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision that held that federal judges can consider federal sentencing guidelines, but are no longer bound by them. Federal probation officials found that under the guidelines, Suzuki should receive a minimum of 57 months in prison.

But Rafeedie said he would consider factors about the crime and Suzuki's background both favorable and unfavorable to the former representative and came up with the three-year sentence.

Suzuki showed no emotion as the judge announced the prison term and later declined to comment. "Frankly, he was stunned," said his lawyer William Harrison.

The defense attorney sought probation and community service, arguing that the government didn't lose any money in taxes. Federal prosecutors, however, said the government lost more than $1.5 million.

Harrison cited letters from Case and Cayetano, both former legislators. Case worked with Suzuki in the Legislature and described him as a dedicated public servant who made a "mistake," Harrison said. Cayetano is aware of Suzuki's background and also supported him, the lawyer said.

Harrison said Suzuki faces the loss of his real estate and CPA licenses.

Edward Groves, special attorney with the Justice Department's Tax Division, told Rafeedie that Suzuki's crime was not a "one-shot deal," but spanned from 1993 until he pleaded guilty. He could have stopped his criminal conduct during that period and never did, Groves told the judge.

Rafeedie said Suzuki's criminal conduct spanned a long period and required "sophisticated planning."

Boulware was found guilty by a federal jury in 2001 of tax evasion and filing false tax returns and conspiring to commit bank fraud. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year reversed the tax convictions.

Reach Ken Kobayashi at 525-8030 or kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com.