Leilehua teacher charged in 'ice' distribution case
Federal officials say he negotiated deals in the classroom
He was supposed to be a mentor to his students. Instead, authorities allege, the special-education teacher was making drug deals from the classroom.
Lee Nobuo Anzai, 29, was arrested just before midnight Tuesday on suspicion of dealing crystal methamphetamine, or "ice," to an undercover officer. And he was charged yesterday on five counts of distributing nearly a pound of the substance. The Leilehua High School teacher is believed to be the first public school teacher in Hawaii to be charged for dealing ice.
"What's troubling about this case is that during some of these instances, Mr. Anzai would negotiate to do the drug deal during school hours and while either sitting in his classroom or on the school campus," U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said yesterday during a news conference.
"He was supposed to be positive mentor to our children," Kubo said.
Law enforcement officials of the Hawaii Rapid Reduction Drug Task Force made the arrest.
In Hawaii a pound of ice costs between $25,000 and $30,000. But the price fluctuates when sold by the ounce or gram, Kubo said.
If convicted, Anzai faces a minimum of 10 years to possibly life in prison for three of the five counts for dealing more than 50 grams of ice.
Anzai's arrest was based on a two-month undercover operation. Calls made by community members to the Honolulu Police Department's Narcotics/Vice Division about Anzai's drug dealing prompted federal agents to investigate.
Members of the Hawaii Rapid Reduction Drug Task Force matched information gathered from the complaints to information gathered in their own investigation involving various law enforcement agencies.
Authorities said they found an ice pipe with residue on Anzai.
A torch lighter typically used by ice users, a scale and several plastic bags with residue that appeared to be ice also were found in his car, according to a court document, along with about $3,000 in cash.
At his Mililani home on Apele Place, agents discovered a broken ice pipe that contained residue, a scale, several marijuana "bong" pipes and a small amount of marijuana.
Law enforcement also obtained a search warrant to access his classroom at Leilehua High before students arrived. No drugs or paraphernalia were found.
Based on the court document, Anzai conducted the drug transactions with the undercover officer in the parking lot of Kamehameha Shopping Center on Sept. 8; Gentry Waipio Shopping Center on Sept. 14; Waipio Gentry Shopping Center on Sept. 19; Russ K. Makaha Quiksilver Boardriders Club on Sept. 29; and Pali Longs Drug on Tuesday.
He made his initial court appearance before Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren at U.S. District Court. Anzai's detention court hearing is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. tomorrow before Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 30 before Magistrate Judge Leslie Kobayashi.
While seated in the courtroom, Anzai was visibly distraught, hanging his head and shaking it in disappointment as his attorney, Howard Luke, spoke to him. Often, he looked toward his wife, Sherri, who sat in the courtroom gallery with other family members, wiping away tears.
As he was led out of the courtroom, Anzai's father told him, "Hang in there, Lee. Just hang in there." Family members declined comment.
"He has a lot of support -- family, friends, community support," Luke said. "He has no prior record of any nature whatsoever. He's otherwise a very decent young man, and I think we'll be able to communicate that to the court this Friday."
For the past six years, Anzai has worked at Leilehua High School as a special-education teacher, teaching science to students in grades 9 to 12. He also held a part-time job as a bellman at the Hawaii Prince Hotel. His wife has been a special-education teacher at Leilehua High for the past seven years.
The couple has a newborn son.
Calls made to Leilehua High Principal Norman Minehira were not returned. Attempts to contact some teachers were also not answered.
"It's shocking and sad that it would affect a teacher in our system," said Greg Knudsen, spokesman for the Department of Education, "but I don't believe in any way that it's a reflection, a negative reflection on our teachers as a whole."
Anzai attended Hawaii Pacific University, where he was named to the Pacific Northwest/Far West Region Sectional All-Star baseball team for three consecutive years in the mid- to late 1990s.
Authorities believe he became involved in ice through his friends.
Based on the court document, Anzai admitted to the undercover officer that he had smoked ice throughout his four years at Hawaii Pacific University, and how he was able to pass drug tests by rigging urine samples.