Hawaii Drug Bust: Huge Drug Ring Dismantled - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

April 25, 2002

Hawaii Drug Bust: Huge Drug Ring Dismantled

Authorities have nabbed 40 people in Hawaii and California following a joint investigation into a major drug ring. Officers also seized millions of dollars worth of cocaine and crystal methamphetamine.

The suspects are being held at Federal Detention Center. A Maui cop and two former Saint Louis football players are among those accused of participating in a drug operation that stretched from California to the South Pacific. The arrests came after a 16-month investigation.

The Jackpot. After 16 months of work, authorities have eight pounds of crystal methamphetamine, three pounds of cocaine, $600,000 in cash and numerous firearms. But more importantly, they say they've broken up a sophisticated drug trafficking organization spanning from California, Hawaii, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.

Daniel Dzwilewski F.B.I. special agent, "the investigation identified and eliminated four distinct lines of distribution of dangerous narcotics into Hawaii."

Officers arrested 40 people, including, from Oahu, Silo Tagoai, and Amako, Silila and Tasi Malepeai. The last two played football for Saint Louis school and the University of Oregon. Also arrested from Maui Polotani and Evona Latu.

The FBI says the ring was responsible for half of the crystal meth distributed on the valley isle.

Thomas Phillips, Maui Police Chief , "crystal meth has kind of become the drug of choice, so to speak. And we have the beginnings of all the crime problems that surface with the use of that drug."

Authorities say the suspects used creative methods to fly the drugs into the islands. They packed the stuff in various items including basketballs. They were contained in hollowed-out basketballs that were then re-sealed and re-inflated.

Children's toys were also used. Maui police say one of their patrol officers, 29-year-old James Mateaki was arrested as well.