HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Multiple law enforcement agencies announced a statewide crackdown on illegal game rooms Tuesday, and said at least 15 people have already been charged.
The operation was announced at a news conference, in which representatives from the FBI, ATF, Department of Homeland Security and Honolulu Police Department said they were targeting game room operators because of an influx in crime associated with illegal gambling.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Kenji Price said they’ve located approximately 80 illegal game rooms on Oahu alone in commercial and residential areas.
Those charged included 12 suspects who were allegedly operating game rooms out of single-family homes in Waipahu and Pearl City.
They were named as:
- Zongqi Ding, 33
- Tommy Can Wei Lee, 50
- Zhong Chen, 38
- Endrews Setefano, 31
- Paolo Ioane, 30
- Matthew Samuela, 31
- Jason Ishizuka, 38
- Aiyan Zhang, 33
- Seng Long Lio, 30
- Shi Min Huang, 33
- Alex Hui Zhang, 29
- and Freddy Siatunuu, 31
Siatunuu was also charged with allegedly robbing a patron who had won about $4,000 on an electronic gaming machine.
And 47-year-old Kenneth Puahi was charged with arson after he allegedly set fire to a warehouse in Waipahu where he had been operating a game room. He was picked up by law enforcement Tuesday morning.
Authorities said the fire happened after the warehouse owners tried to evict him.
Finally, 21-year-old Pauulu Lavatai was charged with robbery and firearms counts after he allegedly pistol whipped a security guard at a game room and took from a cashier.
Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard added that those who know about illegal game rooms should contact authorities.
“We’re going to come after you,” she told game room operators.
“Some people say, 'Hey, it’s only gambling. But the crime we’re seeing, the guns, the stabbing” are oftentimes linked to game rooms, she said. “We are going to go after those who are committing these crimes.”
Of the 15 charged, eight were captured during Monday’s raids, the remaining seven were picked up Tuesday.