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Honolulu Police Officers Indicted in Jail Food Scandal

From January 1995 to September 2000, while prisoners at the Honolulu Police Department were eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and prepackaged, reheatable meals, their captors were eating top sirloin and rib eye steaks at taxpayers' expense. Assistant Police Chief Rafael Fajardo and Major Jeffrey Owens are accused of using money budgeted for prisoner meals to buy extravagant food items for consumption by police officers and jail guards.

Among the foods allegedly purchased by Fajardo and Owens are 39 pounds of rack of lamb, 174 pounds of top sirloin, 70 pounds of rib eye steaks, 87 pounds of pork loins and 100 pounds of cocktail smokies. Also purchased were chopsticks and plastic forks, which the prisoners are not allowed to use for security reasons. According to one investigator, the illegal purchases may have cost taxpayers as much as $21,000.

One witness, Sgt. Margaret Hirakawa, became suspicious after being told the arsenal was out of storage space. What she found was "boxes on top of boxes [of food]...and it was all for the kitchen." The kitchen, however, was supposed to contain only convection ovens used to reheat the airlinetype meals prisoners received. Special equipment had to be brought in to cook the food ordered by Fajardo and Owens.

Accountant Dennis Yamashita told the grand jury he questioned the food purchases. "Since I've been there, [for breakfast we were serving only peanut butter and jam sandwiches," he said. But what Fajardo told him was, "If you don't like what we're doing, you can come down and run it yourself."

Lead investigator, Major Daniel Hanagami, interviewed Fajardo and Owens. He reported to the grand jury that Fajardo told him that he knew nothing about the food purchased for officers and that he believed nothing but the airlinetype meals were being bought by the department while he was in charge.

Hanagami said that Owens didn't feel the food purchases should be a major issue. Owens also told Haganami that the food helped maintain officer morale and, therefore, decreased possible staff assaults on prisoners. "He could not see the logic of him doing wrong by giving food to the officers," Hanagami told the grand jury. Trial is set for August 19.

Sources: The Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu StarBulletin Hawaii News

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