Inside source led to 2 guards' arrest
The men allegedly tried to obtain devices that would alter guns
A confidential source and a sting operation helped FBI agents charge two longtime Halawa Correctional Facility prison guards with attempting to obtain six devices that can convert semiautomatic rifles into machine guns.
After hearing testimony from an FBI agent in charge of the arrests of Ronald P. Lee Jr. and Patrick H. Sonsona, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren said there is enough evidence for the two to appear before a grand jury.
That date was not set yesterday.
During yesterday's preliminary hearing in federal court, FBI Special Agent Justin Stern said a confidential source contacted authorities in late March and helped lead to the men's arrests on April 21.
The source first met with the FBI in the Honolulu Police Department garage at the beginning of April, Stern said. The source gave authorities schematics of the devices, also known as "lightning links," which are illegal to possess or transfer.
The source told FBI agents that he obtained the schematics from Lee, who has been with the state Department of Public Safety for 20 years.
In the following weeks, the FBI monitored and recorded communications between their source and the two men. Stern said the source and Lee had contacted each other through telephone calls and that there were e-mails between the source and Sonsona, exchanges that are still being verified through Internet records.
At 1 p.m. April 21, Lee allegedly accepted a package with the lightning links inside from an undercover U.S. postal inspector, according to Stern's court affidavit.
The box had a green customs label that said "Tools," as suggested by Lee, Stern testified.
When Lee was arrested, he agreed to cooperate with the FBI. Wearing a wire with FBI agents watching, Lee met with Sonsona -- a 15-year veteran with the Public Safety Department -- later that day to deliver the package to him near Home Depot in Kapolei.
Sometime during the exchange, Sonsona allegedly threw the box into the bushes, where agents later found it.
Sonsona and Lee were released earlier on a $25,000 bond each and appeared in court with family and friends. They declined to be interviewed for this story, but their family and friends appeared to be cordial with each other, offering their support.