A federal crackdown on illegal gambling rooms on Oahu.
Law enforcement agencies, including Homeland Security and HPD raided two homes, leading to charges against 15 suspects.
Federal law enforcement officials say these arrests aren’t just about gambling. They’re tied to other crimes that affect others who live beyond the communities where the gambling houses are located.
The federal agencies teamed up with HPD to confiscate illegal gambling machines Monday on Pupupuhi Street in Waipahu and Hoolehua Street in Pearl City. Both described as residential areas where illegal gambling has been going on since October last year.
Resident George Tsukayama suspected that something wasn’t right with his neighbor.
“When my daughter was here last December she said there’s a bouncer at the gate,” he said.
“They’ve spread their tentacles into residential areas jeopardizing the safety and security of communities like Pearl City and Waipahu,” said U.S. Attorney Kenji Price.
Officials say in many cases, money from these types of gambling operations IS used to finance organized crime.
“Do not be fooled, the money that is collected at these gambling dens turns into narcotics for these organizations, it turns into guns for these organizations. It helps them promote other types of activities that hurt our community,” said John Tobon, Special Agent in Charge with Homeland Security Investigations.
“The crime that we’re seeing, the guns, the stabbing, it always for the most part, 95% of the time is traced back to either illegal gambling or drug activity,” said HPD Chief Susan Ballard.
Of the 15 people charged, Kenneth Pauahi is also accused of arson for setting a warehouse in Waipahu on fire. Officials say they notified the owner of the warehouse that Pauahi was running a gambling operation in the warehouse, and he set it on fire when the property owner tried to evict him. Damage is estimated at one million dollars.
Another suspect, Freddy Siatanuu is charged with robbery.
“It is alleged that he robbed a patron at gunpoint after the patron won roughly $4,000 playing an electric video gambling machine at the Pearl City game room,” said Price.
Seven of the 15 people charged are still at large. Officials say homeowners who operate these illegal gambling rooms can lose their property. The feds have identified 80 illegal game rooms on Oahu.