HPD takes lid off undercover sting
Prosecutors accuse 15 of dealing ‘ice’ in Kalihi
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Federal prosecutors have accused 15 people of selling crystal methamphetamine, or "ice," near Kalihi-area elementary schools, parks and public housing areas.
Indictments announced yesterday by the U.S. Attorney's Office are a result of a months-long police investigation of street-level drug activity in the area.
Honolulu police Maj. Kurt Kendro said as many as seven plainclothes police officers made deals with the accused pushers. U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said investigations are ongoing and that prosecutors hope to attack drug operations at their highest level.
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Kalihi residents complained last year about dealers pushing crystal methamphetamine near schools and public housing projects and that a police officer was not in sight.
Seven indictments accused 15 people of selling or distributing drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, playground or public housing area.
» Ponciano Gamueda, 45, Romelius Ramiro, 26, Emmanuel Ibara, 38, and Adrina Barrett, 42, for allegedly selling crystal methamphetamine, or "ice," near Honolulu Community College and Likelike Elementary School between December and February
» Geraldine Lara, 35, Arnold Luna, 30, and Shaina Galan, 27, for allegedly selling ice near HCC and Likelike Elementary between December and February
» Ronald and Dalgene Kaauwai, ages 38 and 40 respectively, for allegedly selling ice near Likelike Elementary between February and March
» Mely Quidez, 31, and Fredo Tolentino, 42, for allegedly selling ice near Mokauea Mini Park between March and May
» Jerry Ramento, 49, and Shami Rafanan, 22, for allegedly selling ice near Mokauea Mini Park on Dec. 13
» J oel Cascayan, 44, for allegedly selling ice near Mokauea Mini Park on April 11
» Bernharde Perreira, 47, for allegedly selling methamphetamine near HCC and Princess Kaiulani Elementary School between February and May
Officers were not seen because they were operating undercover since December, and last week their investigations yielded seven federal indictments against 15 street-level pushers, officials announced yesterday.
"This all came about because the community would no longer stand for the open drug dealing," said Honolulu police Maj. Kurt Kendro.
The alleged "ice" deals, "user" amounts sold as less than a gram, were made within 1,000 feet of Honolulu Community College, the Palama settlement and Likelike and Princess Kaiulani elementary schools. All the areas are protected under the federal Weed and Seed program. Drugs were also being sold in the Mokauea Mini Park in Kalihi.
So far, 13 of the 15 are in custody, including two who are in state custody on unrelated charges. Two of the accused, Jerry Ramento and Shaina Galan, are still at large.
Each of them faces a federal prison sentence between one to 40 years. All but Emmanuel Ibara have past criminal convictions, including for drug possession and resisting arrest.
"When their drug dealing is open and blatant, this threatens the safety of our families and our neighborhoods," said U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo in announcing the indictments. "And we will remove them from our communities, and we will ship them to a federal prison on the mainland."
Kendro said his officers tried to act as a deterrent by having visible police presence in the area, but they were unsuccessful in apprehending any suspects.
Instead, as many as seven plainclothes officers began surveying the area and purchasing drugs. Residents in the neighborhood still complained, this time asking why police presence was not visible.
Kendro said their hands were tied because they could not talk about the undercover operation.
"You pull up in a blue-and-white and in uniform, it's like the cockroaches at night, they all scatter," Kendro said. "It's frustrating to not be able to tell the public that, because they're making complaints. They want to see results."
Kendro said despite that, he still wants the public to call in any incidents they see, even if there is an undercover sting ongoing against drug deals.
"They may not see the solutions right away, but know that we're working on it," he said.
Bernadette Young, chairwoman of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board, said she had not heard of isolated cases of drugs being sold near the schools.
"I'm quite sure there are these cases, however," Young said. "And I'm glad the Police Department is getting involved."