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Official charged in money laundering free on bond

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A Micronesian government official charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and accused of accepting bribes from a Honolulu businessman has close family ties to his country’s president and a former senator, a government attorney revealed Wednesday.

Federal Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi on Wednesday released Master Halbert on a $25,000 unsecured bond at his pretrial detention hearing over objections by Katherine Raut, attorney for the Fraud Section of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Raut argued that because Halbert is a foreign citizen with a foreign passport and has no local ties, he is a flight risk and should remain in custody. She also said that he is closely related to the president of the Federated States of Micronesia and a former senator of the FSM.

Halbert’s lawyer, Myles Breiner, who was retained Wednesday after the hearing, confirmed he is the son of former FSM Sen. Dohsis Halbert, but could not confirm his relationship to the president.

Federal public defender Max Mizono told the court Halbert’s wife was in the courtroom and willing to co-sign the bond. He added that Halbert used to live in Hawaii in the 1990s, and his wife’s family owns property here.

Puglisi restricted Halbert’s travel to Oahu, and his residence to his wife’s family’s Wilder Avenue condominium.

Halbert is one of at least two FSM officials accused of assisting Frank James Lyon, co-owner of civil engineering firm Lyon Associates Inc., in securing contracts worth $7.8 million for FSM government projects in exchange for bribes.

Halbert allegedly received vehicles, cash and travel benefits from Lyon.

The criminal complaint against Halbert details emails in which he directed Lyon to provide him cash when he needed it and to buy him a truck. In one case, he demanded a 2014 Chevy Silverado, saying he could use it like cash to pay back anyone or use it as “his forever ride.”

In one instance he allegedly threatened an executive in Lyon’s firm when he refused to book and pay for a hotel room in Guam for him and his family.

Halbert also ran into trouble in December 2015 for falsifying his educational credentials, which allowed him to receive a higher salary.

Lyon, who is also a member of the Honolulu Zoning Board of Appeals, pleaded guilty Jan. 22 to bribing Halbert and other officials, including a Hawaii state agency official, from 2006 to 2016. The state official helped him secure a $2.5 million state contract. Court documents do not identify the state agency, employee or the project.

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