A 26-year-old Honolulu man pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to importing 278 cases of aerial fireworks without a license.
Brandon C. Haleamau also pleaded guilty to lying on shipping documents to try to import a container-load of more fireworks from China, and depositing thousands of dollars in cash into several bank accounts in increments less than $10,000 to evade IRS reporting requirements.
Haleamau faces up to 10 years in prison for each of three illegal importation charges, two years for lying on shipping documents and five years for evading cash transaction reporting requirements when he is sentenced in June.
He also may have to forfeit to the government $345,421 it seized from his Hawaii State Federal Credit Union account and three cars.
The government says Haleamau deposited $1,110,809 in 283 transactions in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $9,500 into his, his wife’s and his mother-in-law’s accounts from June 10, 2008, to Dec. 28, 2009. The prosecutor said Haleamau obtained the money from illegal fireworks sales and illegal gambling.
Federal prosecutor Darren W.K. Ching said Haleamau knew about the cash transaction reporting requirement from his previous employment as a teller at Hawaii State Federal Credit Union and Hawaii USA Federal Credit Union.
Haleamau said not all of the 283 transactions were structured to evade reporting requirements.
Ching said Haleamau paid $26,055 for 9,128 pounds of 1.3G-type display fireworks — used in professional aerial displays — that were shipped to Hawaii from Seattle on Oct. 15, Nov. 10 and Nov. 14, 2007.
Haleamau also admitted intentionally mislabeling a container-load of 1.3G-type display fireworks as 1.4G-type consumer fireworks in December 2008.
"I did that to get it out of China," he said.
Haleamau said since the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the Chinese government was not allowing export of 1.3G-type fireworks.