Micronesia official pleads guilty to bribery in Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) — A Micronesia government official has pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge in Hawaii.

Master Halbert, 44, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Honolulu Tuesday to conspiring to launder bribe money he accepted from the president of a Hawaii civil engineering company.

Halbert accepted bribes from Frank James Lyon of Lyon Associates Inc. in Honolulu in exchange for $7.8 million in contracts, authorities have said.

Halbert was a civil aviation assistant secretary in the Federated States of Micronesia and is the son-in-law of Micronesia President Peter Christian, according to news reports.

Halbert faces a maximum 20-year prison term at his sentencing in July and is prohibited from leaving Oahu while free on bond, authorities said. He could receive a reduced sentence as part of a plea deal.

Lyon paid approximately $200,000 in bribes to Halbert between 2006 and 2016, according to authorities, who said the payments took the form of cash, travel expenses, vehicles, and college tuition for a relative.

The bribes were used to secure $7.8 million in Micronesia government contracts for Lyon's company, according to officials, who said Halbert solicited the bribes and at times threatened to cut off the contracts if Lyon did not pay.

Lyon has pleaded guilty to bribery and faces a maximum five-year prison sentence, according to court records.