Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Historic ‘ice’ bust
nets 5 suspects

Five people were arrested and three were charged in an investigation into a Las Vegas-Honolulu drug ring that allegedly brought 79 pounds of crystal methamphetamine to the islands since mid-2004.

The amount, which includes 35 pounds of "ice" seized from a Waikele home this month, is believed to be the largest involved in a single investigation in recent history, drug enforcement officials said.

Not since one individual was charged in the 1980s in connection with nearly 40 pounds of ice has there been a seizure as significant, officials said.

"Definitely, it's one of the biggest, if not the biggest in recent history that anyone in the DEA office is aware of," said Geoffrey Wellein, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Honolulu.

Two men accused of conspiring to distribute the drugs appeared in U.S. District Court here and in Las Vegas yesterday. Charged in a federal complaint unsealed yesterday is Charles Lee Ranney Jr., 27, of Las Vegas and formerly from Hawaii, and Antonio Santos, 37, of Waipahu. Both were arrested Friday in Las Vegas and Sand Island, respectively.

Also appearing yesterday before federal Magistrate Kevin Chang was Francis Honda, 46, of Waipahu, who was arrested Sept. 13. He was charged in a criminal complaint Friday with possession with intent to distribute 13 ounces of "ice" that was found on him when he was arrested.

According to an affidavit by Gerald Lawson, special agent with the DEA, Honda told agents that he had given the 35 pounds seized in Waikele to a friend to hold earlier this month after learning one of his customers had been arrested.

The 35 pounds of ice allegedly was the unsold portion of 40 pounds given to him by Ranney, his Las Vegas supplier, at a meeting on Sept. 5. The 40 pounds had an estimated street value of $5.376 million.

According to the complaint, Honda had previously received a total of 44 pounds of ice since mid-2004 from Ranney or middleman Santos and paid between $18,000 and $20,000 a pound. The drugs allegedly were sent from Ranney's Harbor Pond Drive residence in Las Vegas to Santos' addresses in Waipahu via U.S. postal mail or express mail.

Postal records show Santos, who lived at a Kahualena Street home and later a Waipahu Depot Road apartment, received six parcels ranging in weight from 10 to 31 pounds between Feb. 26 and May 15, the complaint said.

If convicted, Ranney, Santos and Honda each face a mandatory imprisonment of 10 years to life. Other people have been identified through the joint investigation by the DEA and Honolulu police, but only the three have been charged so far.

Prosecutors will be asking the court to find Santos and Honda are flight risks who pose a danger to the community and should be held without bail pending trial. A detention hearing is set for Thursday.

Ranney is expected to be brought to Honolulu to face the charges.

Attorneys Joseph Mottl for Santos and Arnold Phillips II for Honda declined comment on the charges. "The main thing is to get him out," Phillips said of Honda.

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