Saturday, August 11, 2001

Drug agents nab
22 alleged
‘ice’ dealers

Officials say they have
broken up 2 separate
drug distribution rings

By Nelson Daranciang

Twenty-two people charged with drug trafficking in two secret indictments were the first defendants arraigned yesterday by a judge at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu.

They are accused of distributing methamphetamine, also known as "ice."

A federal grand jury returned the indictments Wednesday. A federal judge kept them sealed until agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and Honolulu police arrested the defendants Thursday at various locations on Oahu. Six other suspects remained at large.

Authorities also seized about a pound of drugs, some firearms and a silencer, and about $100,000 in cash.

The indictments accuse 28 defendants of running two separate drug distribution enterprises on Oahu. Two defendants -- Amy Wong, 23, and Hong Tran, 37 -- are named in the indictments as suppliers for the two operations.

One enterprise allegedly operated from October 1998 until last month out of Shear Touch, a beauty salon run by defendant Colleen Nakamoto, 42, at 1149 Bethel St. in downtown Honolulu.

The indictment details routine transactions ranging from $2,000 for an ounce of ice to $9,000 for a quarter of a pound.

Four other people, including Walter Kupau, son and namesake of the late leader of the Hawaii Carpenters Union, were arrested and charged in separate criminal complaints related to the drug ring.

"I think that the indictment and the charges illustrate that there can be no doubt as to the seriousness of the ice-trafficking problem in Hawaii," said Elliot Enoki, interim U.S. attorney.

Enoki said the arrests will have an immediate impact on the availability of the drug on Oahu.

The indictments and arrests were the culmination of a seven-month federal investigation that began with a referral from Honolulu police as part of the Chinatown Weed and Seed cooperative agreement between local and federal law enforcement agencies.

"When the referral was made, there could have been a few arrests made for a few drug transactions, but that would not have resulted in the dismantling of basically the operation that occurred," Enoki said. "It certainly wouldn't have gotten to the sources of the drugs or the people that were distributing."

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