Friday, January 11, 2002

Ecstasy bust nabs
young alleged
isle dealers

A joint investigation helps arrest
the 3 suspects, all under 21

By Rod Antone

State Narcotics Enforcement agents said they have arrested three young men -- none of them old enough to drink alcohol legally -- who allegedly were major distributors of the designer drug ecstasy.

One of the men, an 18-year-old University of Hawaii student who lives with his parents in Hawaii Kai, is alleged to have sold 200 ecstasy tablets a week over the past year.

"There are bigger dealers, but the reason this stood out so much was that this was an 18-year-old kid selling in this amount," State Narcotics administrator Keith Kamita said yesterday. "Together the three sold about 500 tabs a week. ... We're still looking into their source."

The two other suspects arrested in the case last month are an 18-year-old unemployed male and a 20-year-old former Marine. A 15-year-old girl who was accompanying the group to a rave party was also arrested but later released.

The three male suspects were later released pending investigation. Narcotics officials said charges could include drug distribution felonies punishable by up to 10 to 20 years in prison.

Narcotics agents also impounded the Hawaii Kai suspect's 2001 Honda Prelude because the vehicle allegedly was used to transport the drugs.

Agents said they believe that a portion of the $26,000 car along with $3,000 worth of upgrades were paid with cash from ecstasy sales.

State narcotics agents and Honolulu police were alerted to the group when Army Criminal Investigation Division officials notified them about ecstasy dealers who were selling the drug to members of the military at Waikiki nightclubs.

A joint investigation involving all three agencies began in November, and undercover agents were able to purchase $800 worth of ecstasy -- about 50 tabs -- from the group last month.

The tabs consisted of mostly "yellow butterflies" and "white dolphins," said Kamita, slang names for the drug based on the color of the tabs and shapes cut into the drug's surface.

Different types of ecstasy can also yield a different type of high according to narcotics agents.

"The quantity was alarming," said Kamita. "We know these drugs would have ended up at some rave party as soon as they hit the street."

"They'd buy it for $11 to $15 a tab, then sell it for $20 to $25 a tab," said State Narcotics Agent Ed Howard. "Their buyers were a lot of juveniles, UH students, members of the military."

"This is just one of many groups involved in ecstasy. ... There's a lot of different networks of young distributors hitting the clubs and raves."

Ecstasy, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine, produces a euphoric feeling which users refer to as "rolling." Other known side effects include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that can lead to dehydration and hypertension, a clenching of the jaw or grinding of the teeth, and lack of energy and feelings of depression the following day.

Howard said Hawaii law enforcement became aware of ecstasy in the mid-1990s when it became popular in nightclubs. So far, the largest ecstasy bust in the state involved a former Waikiki nightclub deejay who was arrested for selling $35,000 worth of ecstasy to undercover agents in 1996.

Howard said the age of both ecstasy users and distributors appears to get younger every year.

The Honolulu Police Department has even put together a Designer Drug Task Force aimed at combating ecstasy sales.

"You never see major distributors this young for the other drugs, like cocaine or crystal meth," said Howard.

"But that's why ecstasy is our No. 1 enforcement concern right now."

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