Saturday, October 18, 2003

Drug rings busted

57 people have been indicted and
five isle trafficking rings broken up,
authorities say

Authorities say they have indicted 57 people on drug charges and broken up five trafficking rings that imported 80 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and cocaine to Hawaii every month.

"These guys were boldly importing 'ice' and cocaine to Hawaii in our aircraft, ships and air mail," said U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo. "They will never be doing this in Hawaii again."

Iced out

In a series of crystal methamphetamine and cocaine busts that ended yesterday:

>> 18 people on Oahu , 24 on the Big Island, and five in three other states were arrested;

>> 57 people were indicted on drug charges;

>> $200,000 and 12 firearms were seized.


The busts netted 45 arrests and cut off an estimated 35 percent of the Big Island's crystal meth, or "ice," supply, Kubo said yesterday at a news conference to announce the results of a federal, state and county drug task force effort.

Twelve other people under indictment are being sought by authorities.

The drugs were allegedly imported to Oahu and the Big Island from suppliers in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Eighteen Oahu residents were arrested yesterday in early-morning raids, primarily in Kaneohe. Authorities said 24 people were arrested on the Big Island on Thursday.

Officials also recently arrested a California man, a Nevada man and three Arizona men in connection with the case, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Thomas.

"We've dealt a significant blow to these individuals," said Lawrence Mahuna, chief of the Hawaii County Police Department. "I hope this sends the message that the Big Island is not a safe haven for drugs."

All of those indicted face at least 10 years and up to life in federal prison if found guilty of possessing 50 grams or more of crystal meth with an intent to distribute the drug, Kubo said.

Some face higher sentences if additionally convicted of attempting to facilitate drug distribution.

The rings' leaders were identified as Marvin Postadan, Jasen Antonio and Brandon Chang of the Big Island, and William Totten and Shane Tom of Oahu.

Postadan is alleged to be the Big Island's largest distributor of crystal meth and was working with a supplier from California, Kubo said.

Totten is alleged to have led a ring that brought in 40 pounds of ice a month into Oahu from a supplier in Arizona, Kubo said. Chang, Antonio and Tom were also identified as key leaders in separate drug rings.

Twelve firearms, $200,000 and about three ounces of crystal meth were seized during the arrests, authorities said.

FBI Special Agent Charles Goodwin said more assets are expected to go into forfeiture as the investigation continues.

All those indicted in the case will be arraigned next week, Thomas said.

The operation was the culmination of a six-month investigation by the FBI, the Honolulu and Hawaii county police departments and other agencies.

Law enforcement officials said they tapped phones and moved on a series of tips to secure the arrests and indictments.

Goodwin said the operation was one of the largest the state has ever seen.

In January, county, state and federal law enforcement agents raided eight suspected Big Island drug houses, making 21 arrests.

The year before, 40 people were charged with federal drug offenses in a bust that named two Maui brothers as key players in an international drug ring that distributed crystal meth and cocaine in California, Hawaii and elsewhere in the Pacific.

The most recent busts were orchestrated through the Hawaii High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federal program that fights drug trafficking in cooperation with law enforcement officials from different jurisdictions.

The agency's executive director, Larry Burnett, said authorities have begun investigations into other possible drug rings, which could yield as many or more arrests and indictments as the busts announced yesterday.

Goodwin agreed, saying the busts signal the beginning of a massive effort to rid the state of drug suppliers and distributors.

"We're trying to take off the top layer and key players. And we already have new targets picked out," he said. "We may be coming to a neighborhood near you real soon."

Star-Bulletin reporter Nelson Daranciang contributed to this report.


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