HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Federal authorities are calling it a bust of a major drug trafficking organization. 14 people were arrested and indicted for various drug charges.
Court documents revealed Friday state the accused ringleader, 61-year-old Big Island resident Roger Christie, also known as the head of the THC Ministry, allegedly recruited several individuals to help grow and supply him with marijuana.
THC is apparently a well known religious group that claims marijuana is a sacrament. The indictment also reveals that several search warrants were executed on various properties. In all, about 3,000 marijuana plants were seized, with a street value of $4.8 million.
Through wiretaps it was determined that about a half a pound of marijuana a day was being sold to between 60 and 70 customers a day at the Hilo ministry location.
"This was a large scale business… Marijuana is big. And this group was heavily involved in that" said Florence Nakakuni, United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii.
All 14 defendants were arrested yesterday and brought to Oahu by a Coast Guard C-130 plane for their initial appearance Friday morning. If convicted, they face jail times of between five years to life in prison. Trial is set for September.
Arrested were: John Debaptist Bouey III, Roger Cusick Christie, Victoria C Fiore, Susanne Lenore Friend, Donald James Gibson, Roland Gregory Ignacio, Timothy M Mann, Perry Emilio Policicchio, Michael B Shapiro, Sherryanne L St Cyr, Wesley Mark Sudbury, Richard Bruce Turpen, Jessica R Walsh and Aaron George Zeeman.