Dozens arrested as part of multi-agency operation into Kalihi drug rings

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Dozens of suspected drug dealers are now in federal custody after a massive sting.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Honolulu Police Department arrested Thursday 22 defendants named in six indictments returned by a federal grand jury on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7.

The six indictments charge 37 defendants with a variety of drug trafficking offenses and three of those defendants are charged with firearm offenses.

Authorities say the underlying investigation focused on drug activity around the Towers at Kuhio Park, formerly known as Kuhio Park Terrace (KPT), a public housing complex in Kalihi.

The accused drug dealers were allegedly running an “open-air drug market.”

“We hope that this joint operation will go a long way toward curbing the drug trade at the Towers at Kuhio Park and making Honolulu in general a safer place for people to live,” said Tom Simon, FBI Honolulu special agent. “The FBI and Honolulu police have been investigating a large drug ring operating in that area for a long time and today’s arrests were a culmination of that investigation.”

Authorities allege a series of drug rings involving crystal methamphetamine and firearms.

“In the 10 years that I’ve been associated with the FBI in Honolulu, I have not seen a federal drug case to this magnitude,” Simon said.

The 18 local residents arrested Thursday appeared in federal court. All asked for a public defender. The judge ruled all will remain behind bars until their hearing next Tuesday.

Florence T. Nakakuni, United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, said that the indictment alleges 105 drug trafficking offenses ranging from July 2014 to November 2016, as well as five firearm offenses.

We reached out to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to find out how an elaborate drug ring could happen for so long without being detected.

Executive director Hakim Ouansafi says the authority was aware of and cooperated with the investigation.

“There is absolutely zero tolerance when it comes to drugs. Any people that are involved and happen to be in our housing, immediate eviction will start and if they are convicted of a felony, they will be barred from public housing for life,” Ouansafi said. “Regardless (of whether the suspects are) our tenants or not, any activity that did happen in our housing, we do hold the people living there responsible.”

Ouansafi says the authority is also conducting an internal investigation.

Arrested today in Hawaii were:

  • Eliu Afoa, age 29, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii;
  • Laauli Amani, age 43, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii;
  • Gilbert Enos, age 65, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii;
  • Aukisitino Falaniko, age 38, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii;
  • Daryl Kuresa, age 36, a resident of Aiea, Hawaii;
  • Duane Liupaono, age 35, a resident of Aiea, Hawaii;
  • Lee Lopez, age 44, a resident of Kaneohe, Hawaii;
  • Dorani Luavai, age 22, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii;
  • Dorothy Lupe, age 38, a resident of Mililani, Hawaii;
  • Robert Paga, age 41, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • Faaalo Salavea, age 42, a resident of Ewa Beach, Hawaii;
  • Piliopo Salavea, age 45, a resident of Ewa Beach, Hawaii;
  • Eldean Tacuban, age 46, a resident of Kaneohe, Hawaii;
  • Kilisi Toliniu, age 35, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii;
  • Papa Tupua, age 58, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii;
  • Alesana Vaimasanuu, age 38, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii;
  • Roger Whitmarsh, age 39, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii; and
  • Rodney Wong, age 49, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii.

Arrested today in California were:

  • Kpel Hollins, age 34, a resident of Waipahu, Hawaii;
  • Jeremiah Ieremia, age 26, a resident of San Francisco, California;
  • Jeremiah Matau, age 34, a resident of Antioch, California; and
  • Faanimo Paopao, age 25, a resident of San Francisco, California.

The following individuals were previously arrested in connection with the overarching investigation in this case and are currently in federal custody:

  • James Abalos, age 38, a resident of Honolulu;
  • Jessie Momosea, age 31, a resident of Honolulu;
  • Theresa Tuua-Montgomery, age 45, a resident of Honolulu;
  • Victor Daniels, age 48, a resident of Honolulu; and
  • Villiami Tapuketau Naufahu, age 26, a resident of San Mateo, California.

The following individuals were charged but are currently in State of Hawaii custody:

  • Lelauti Sakaria, age 35, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii; and
  • June Gibson, age 43, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii

If convicted of the most serious drug charges in the indictment (violations of 21 USC 841(b)(1)(A)), defendants face up to a maximum of life in prison, with mandatory minimum prison terms of 10 years. Other charges (violations of 21 USC 841(b)(1)(B)) have maximum terms of 40 years in prison, with mandatory minimum prison terms of five years, while the least serious drug offenses (violations of 21 USC 841(b)(1)(C)) have maximum prison terms of 20 years.

The three firearm offenses alleging possession of firearms and/or ammunition during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime carry a mandatory five-year prison term consecutive to the sentence for the drug trafficking crime. The two firearm offenses alleging the defendant to be a felon in possession of firearms and/or ammunition carry a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years.

The charges in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The arrest and charges resulted from a joint investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Honolulu Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tony R. Roberts and Marion Percell.

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