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Drug-ring chief gets a break


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POSTED: Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The head of a drug-trafficking operation who cooperated with investigators to help arrest an FBI accounting technician who leaked sensitive data to drug dealers was sentenced yesterday to 12 years in federal prison, just above the 10-year mandatory minimum.

Federal Judge David Ezra said Damien Kalei Hina, who pleaded guilty in the federal drug-conspiracy case, used his “;smarts”; to successfully run the drug operation.

Ezra also gave him five years' supervised release.

The 36-year-old Waialua man dealt with “;Mexican suppliers at the top of this ladder,”; Assistant U.S. Attorney Flo Nakakuni told the court. He was one of 23 people indicted in 2006 after an internal FBI investigation.

Hina admitted to conspiracy to possess 80 pounds of methamphetamine, but the government maintained he had up to 100 pounds of the drug.

Hina pleaded guilty Aug. 29, 2007, to conspiracy to possess and distribute 500 grams (1.1 pounds) or more of methamphetamine and use of a communication facility to distribute methamphetamine.

Nakakuni recommended a sentence of 13 years and two months to 14 years and 10 months for his significant cooperation against eight defendants, including convicted FBI accounting technician Charmaine Moniz and her husband, Eric, who was involved in Hina's drug dealing on the North Shore.

Moniz used the FBI database to find information concerning the activities of her husband, Hina and other drug dealers.

As serious as his role in the drug-trafficking operation was, more important was that Hina played a significant role in helping the government put an end to the FBI corruption and to put Moniz away, the judge said. Ezra could have sentenced him to 27 years and three months, at the high end of the sentencing guidelines.

Hina appeared in good spirits, smiling, nodding and mouthing words to friends and relatives in the courtroom. He has already served three years of his sentence.

Hina's attorney, Barry Edwards, argued Jess Lundgren was Hina's equal partner and received a 4 1/2 -year sentence. But the court found Hina had overseen the distribution of meth, while Lundgren oversaw the marijuana distribution, and it found Hina to be in charge.