Former Maui
officer jailed

James Mateaki, 29, gets three
years and 10 months for his
role in a plan to sell "ice"

A former Maui police officer acknowledged he "crossed the line" and apologized yesterday in federal court for conspiring with others to distribute more than 50 grams of crystal methamphetamine.

"I will never support drugs and I never did," said James Mateaki, 29, noting he is sorry for the embarrassment he has brought to the Maui Police Department, where he served for 8 1/2 years.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor sentenced Mateaki yesterday to three years and 10 months in federal prison for his part in the drug conspiracy. He will begin serving his term Sept. 30 at a facility designated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. He will be placed on five years of supervised release when he gets out.

Mateaki pleaded guilty in February to conspiring with friend Polotani Latu, the head of the largest crystal methamphetamine ring on Maui between 2000 and 2002, according to federal prosecutors.

The ring was part of an international drug-trafficking organization that operated between the West Coast, Hawaii and the South Pacific and supplied at least half the "ice" on Maui. Latu and Mateaki were among 40 arrested by the FBI last May for their participation in the drug ring and subsequently indicted.

Gillmor said Mateaki assisted his drug-dealing friends by allowing them to use a cell phone registered under his name and obtaining arrest information from the Maui Police Department about various drug arrests to give to his friends.

Mateaki said he regrets he did not stay away from Latu, but "friends is friends" and he never thought helping his friend would land him in trouble.

"I did cross that line and I'm really sorry," Mateaki said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni said Mateaki abused the trust placed in him as a police officer by helping Latu.

And while Mateaki said he never approved of drugs, a small amount was found in his locker, she said.

Defense attorney Phil Lowenthal said Mateaki had faced a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment.

But because Mateaki was not the leader of the conspiracy, does not have a criminal record and was candid about his involvement, which did not involve violence, he faced between 46 and 57 months.

"It's terrible," Lowenthal said. Mateaki's career is gone, and he is highly unlikely to ever find a job in law enforcement again. His wife is also expecting another child.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --