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Pocket Money

Ever wonder where your marina fees go—maintenance, repairs, maybe a new dock cleat every now and then? In Hawaii, about $100,000 in docking fees went to lining the wallet of a state boating official, according to police.

Illustration by Richard ClarkIn February, Wesley Choi was accused of pocketing that much cash from recreational boaters’ fees. The 49-year-old Oahu assistant district boating manager allegedly stole money regularly over a two-year period beginning in 2008. 

“Basically Mr. Choi embezzled funds from the state … just below $100,000,” said William Aila, director of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), according to KHON News. “It’s money intended for personnel costs, for repair and maintenance.” 

Police say they received tips from several boaters, who claimed they saw Choi repeatedly stealing funds. Prosecutors launched an investigation and reportedly gathered evidence for more than a year before arresting him on charges of theft and forgery. 

One boater told reporters she was glad Choi was finally brought to justice. “If he wasn’t caught he’d still be sitting fat and sassy spending our money,” said Monica Mundell, a boater who keeps her cruiser at Keehi Lagoon Harbor. “Everybody is happy that he was caught.”

Aila said Choi had worked with the DLNR for more than 20 years, starting as a janitor and working his way up. “We are saddened and very surprised because Wesley was an integral part of the boating family so it hit us very hard,” he said.  “Definitely the boaters lost out because that’s money that would’ve been used either for repair and maintenance or operational costs.”

According to the state Attorney General’s office, Choi faces a possible maximum sentence of 40 years in jail and a $95,000 fine.

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