Big Island pot bust leads investigation to Minnesota
Hawaii County police officers searching for a man wanted on an arrest warrant ran across an indoor marijuana-growing operation in the Puna district that led them to a Hilo businessman and another indoor marijuana-growing operation in Minnesota.
Vice officers assisted Puna patrol officers in searching for 22-year-old Randy White, who has a warrant of arrest unrelated to the marijuana operation. While making checks for White at his father's house on 40th Avenue in Orchidland Estates, officers found indications of an indoor marijuana-growing operation, police said.
When police with a search warrant searched the Orchidland home on Thursday, they found that it was an uninhabited "grow house," police said. Officers recovered 196 marijuana plants, grow lights, exhaust fans, timers and other growing equipment. While searching paperwork at the house, they found information linked to 52-year-old Joseph Palermo, who also owns a home on Akala Road in the Piihonua area of Hilo and a business in the Hilo industrial area. They later learned that Palermo was renting the Orchidland house.
Police obtained a search warrant for the Akala home and for Palermo's business on Makaala Street. On Friday, officers served the search warrant at the Akala Street home and discovered another indoor marijuana growing operation. They recovered 43 marijuana plants and 27.3 grams of dried processed marijuana. They also recovered a locked safe containing currency, bonds and an unregistered .357-caliber revolver.
Police then served a warrant at the Makaala Street business. They arrested three men and recovered a small amount of marijuana, along with paperwork further linking Palermo to the Orchidland indoor grow operation.
At 12:55 p.m., police located Palermo and his wife at the Hilo Airport and arrested them. One of Palermo's co-workers was also arrested at the airport.
Investigation revealed that Palermo owned a home in West St. Paul, Minn., and that he had recently made several trips there.
On Saturday, police released all arrested persons except Palermo pending further investigation. He was charged with first-degree commercial promotion of marijuana and seven other drug and firearm offenses. His bail was set at $21,750. He posted bail the following day and was released.
On Sunday, police made contact with the Dakota County Drug Task Force in Minnesota. The task force served a warrant on a home in West St. Paul and found that it was unoccupied and that its basement contained an indoor marijuana-growing operation.
Police found documents linking the marijuana-growing operation to Palermo and recovered 200 marijuana plants, one-half pound of dried processed marijuana, grow lights, fans and other growing equipment.
Police still have not found the man they were originally seeking, Randy White of Puna. His warrant for violating probation for a theft case remains outstanding. He is described as Caucasian, 5-foot-10, about 135 pounds with a tattoo that says "Bloodline" across his back, one that says "808" on his left forearm and one that says "PUNA" on his left shin.