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Thursday, January 18, 2001

Judge’s order
may spell end of
Hilo ‘crack/ice house’

By Rod Thompson
Big Island correspondent

HILO -- Downtown Hilo garden shop manager Jeffrey Enriques regularly saw cars pulling up at the ramshackle wooden apartment behind his store, people running from the apartment porch to the car, and the car driving away.

Enriques knew a drug house operation was under way behind his business, Garden Exchange Ltd.

He knew there was prostitution there, too.

He was personally approached by people from Mauna Loa Apartments offering him sex or drugs for money.

That came to an end last week when Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura signed an order enjoining 18 former residents of the apartments from returning for 90 days. The order can be extended.

Residents had already been given a 45-day eviction notice by apartment owner Alex Sagaysay of Honolulu.

Attorney Richard Peterson, whose fiancee, Alisa Rung Khongsok, runs a Thai restaurant a few doors away, said in a court document that he saw the apartments "change considerably" in the space of 1 1/2 years.

"Mauna Loa Hotel has turned into a crack/ice house," Peterson wrote. He and Enriques picked up empty drug baggies and used hypodermic needles every day, they said in court documents.

Khongsok said people would sometimes park in the middle of the street in their eagerness to go inside and purchase drugs.

Enriques said he had seen people at the apartment urinating in public view.

Fights were common. Apartment people came into his business asking for money. His customers told him they were afraid.

In October, Sagaysay was informed of the activity by police. Sagaysay gave residents 45 days' notice on Nov. 6, but they remained until the judge's order Jan. 11. Sagaysay said he would like to renovate the building.

Police officer Lucille Melemai said in documents that the apartments consist of two buildings, with 20 small rooms. Police have made 17 controlled purchases of drugs there and executed seven search warrants, she said.

Anyone violating the judge's order is subject to a minimum fine of $400 and up to six months in prison.

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