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Former boating official charged with embezzlement

A former high-ranking official in Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources is facing four felony charges, accused of stealing nearly $100,000 from state boating funds over a nearly two-year period.

The theft and forgery charges filed Monday come nearly a year after the state Attorney General's office opened an investigation into the employee. Wesley Choi, 49, turned himself in to sheriffs on Monday morning and was released on his own recognizance, KHON reported.

The Attorney General's office said sheriffs arrested Choi on one count of theft, two counts of forgery and a single count of use of a computer in the commission of a separate crime. Prosecutors launched an investigation early last year after several people came forward, alleging that Choi was embezzling state boating funds.

Envirowatch's Carroll Cox first alerted KHON about the investigation last March after Choi abruptly resigned as Oahu assistant district boating manager on March 18, 2011. Cox says boaters had long complained to officials in the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation about Choi's actions.

Boat owners at Keehi Lagoon Harbor, where Choi's office was located, said the arrest was long overdue.

“If he wasn't caught he'd still be sitting fat and sassy spending our money,” Monica Mundell told the television station. “Everybody is happy that he was caught.”

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