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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Man gets prison term after UPW loses $1M

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

A Florida man was sentenced yesterday to 75 days in prison after pleading guilty to accepting $55,000 in kickbacks related to investments by the United Public Workers mutual aid fund.

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway also sentenced Albert A. Hewitt to one year of supervised release after he serves his prison term. Mollway said Hewitt must spend six months home detention and will have to wear an electronic monitoring device during that time.

Hewitt also was ordered to pay $17,500 in restitution to the UPW.

Hewitt pleaded guilty last year to accepting a "finder's fee" from Best Rescue Systems Inc., which manufactured products to help people trapped in high-rise buildings. But Hewitt also was serving as an investment adviser for the UPW's mutual aid fund and persuaded union leaders to invest $1.1 million in Best Rescue.

Best Rescue never got off the ground and the UPW mutual aid fund, which provides hospitalization and other benefits to participating union members and their dependents, was out $1.1 million.

Hewitt and his attorney, Birney Bervar, told Mollway yesterday that Hewitt did not know that the money was coming out of an employee retirement fund. Had he known, Hewitt said, he would not have accepted the $55,000 fee.

"I did not intend to hurt anybody in this," he told Mollway. He said he felt "tremendous remorse" and acknowledged that he made a mistake.

Hewitt and Bervar asked Mollway to place Hewitt on probation. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni asked that Hewitt be sentenced to eight to 14 months because the fund lost $1.1 million.

Mollway refused Hewitt's request and said "some incarceration is appropriate" because Hewitt led a "fiscally irresponsible lifestyle." She ordered Hewitt to begin serving his term on Feb. 27.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.