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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Not guilty, says man accused of bilking city

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Janitorial company president Nelson Aguinaldo pleaded not guilty this week to theft, racketeering and money-laundering charges related to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work his firm received from the city.

Aguinaldo's lawyer, Todd Eddins, called his client an "honest, hard-working small-business-man" and blamed his legal problems on Aguinaldo's ex-wife, Mary Lantano, a city employee who also works part time at another janitorial company.

The couple had "a very contentious divorce and she threatened to ruin Nelson," Eddins said.

Lantano handled the books at Aguinaldo's company, Diversified Janitorial Services, when they were married "and after she left he discovered serious financial problems that he remedied," Eddins said.

Lantano, who testified before the O'ahu grand jury that indicted Aguinaldo last week, denied the allegations from Eddins.

Lantano acknowledged working part time at another janitorial firm, Ganir & Co., that competes with Diversified Janitorial Services, but she said that activity has been cleared with the city.

Aguinaldo is free on $100,000 bail pending trial set for July.

According to city records, Diversified Janitorial Services now holds 16 separate contracts with the city worth $546,196. Seven of the contracts are for janitorial work and the rest are for landscaping services, according to city spokesman Bill Brennan.

The largest of the company's current contracts, worth $129,300, is for cleaning the Honolulu Fire Department's new headquarters building and was awarded last month, more than a year after Honolulu police began an investigation of Aguinaldo's business activities.

Brennan said last week a pending criminal investigation is not grounds to disqualify a company from bidding on, or receiving, city contracts.

Reach Jim Dooley at jdooley@honoluluadvertiser.com.