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Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Drug ring boss
gets 40 years

By Debra Barayuga


The head of an international drug-trafficking organization must serve 40 years in federal prison, U.S. District Judge David Ezra has ordered.

Richard Brown Taumoepeau was one of five co-defendants convicted last year in U.S. District Court of conspiring to transport multikilogram quantities of cocaine from the United States to Pacific Rim locations including Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand between 1990 and 1997.

Ezra said at a sentencing hearing yesterday that Taumoepeau, who had successfully and creatively trafficked drugs for nearly a decade, was in every sense an "international drug kingpin." He said Taumoepeau showed no remorse and that there was no way to measure the harm done to the community.

U.S. Attorney Steve Alm said evidence presented during the six-week trial that lasted from April to June showed Taumoepeau headed the organization that began in San Francisco in the late 1980s and established itself in Hawaii 10 years later. The ring had expanded to Australia and New Zealand by 1996.

At trial, prosecutors showed that individual couriers transported most of the ring's cocaine, carrying 1 to 4 kilograms at a time.

The government estimated between 500 and 1,000 kilograms were transported by the conspirators.

Also convicted last year were Siokatame Hafoka, also known as "Big Joe"; Sosaia Liufau, also known as "Big Saia"; and Chad Tsuneyoshi. Hafoka was sentenced in December to 18 years and four months. Liufau and Tsuneyoshi await sentencing.

Six other defendants named in an indictment filed in December 1997 and a superseding indictment in March 1998 have since pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court. Two others were convicted -- one by plea in New Zealand and another after trial in Australia.

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