Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, April 13, 2002

Maui drug ring kingpin receives 20-year sentence

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

The leader of what was once described as the largest heroin ring on Maui was sentenced yesterday to 20 years in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor sentenced Jorge Salazar-Guillen yesterday to the mandatory term for his role in a drug ring that smuggled heroin into Lahaina for distribution on Maui and Kaua'i.

Salazar-Guillen of Lahaina pleaded guilty in October to one count under the federal drug kingpin statute and for possession of an illegal firearm. He asked Gillmor to be allowed to serve his term in a federal prison in Houston, where Salazar-Guillen said he has family.

Salazar-Guillen was indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2000 as part of a massive crackdown on illegal drugs on Maui. Nearly 75 people were indicted on drug charges connected with two Lahaina-based drug rings, one of which was led by Salazar-Guillen.

Felipe Ruiz-Castro, a part-owner of a Lahaina restaurant, was accused of being the ringleader of the second drug organization. He pleaded guilty to the same drug kingpin statute and money laundering and also faces a mandatory 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in May.

Salazar-Guillen owned a landscaping business on Maui, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck said the business was just a front for Salazar-Guillen's drug operation. Muehleck said the business consisted of a truck, from which Salazar-Guillen distributed the heroin.

The drugs originated from Mexico and came to Hawai'i through California, Muehleck said.

"He'd meet his runners at the truck and the runners would go from there," Muehleck said. "He ran that place like they run Longs Drug store. He had the employees and the employees followed his direction, and the direction they were told to follow was to 'distribute heroin and bring me the money.'"

Salazar-Guillen admitted to directing and supervising three or more narcotic transactions that derived "substantial proceeds." In his plea agreement, he acknowledged that profits totalled at least $54,000 in a one-year period, although Muehleck said the drug ring made much more than that.

Muehleck said federal investigators were able to trace proceeds from the drug sales to a home in Houston that was owned by Salazar-Guillen's sister and her husband, Alma and Emilio Olvera. They were convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering for using the $54,000 to pay off a house note and face a maximum 20 years in prison when they are sentenced May 6, Muehleck said.

Twenty others were charged in connection with Salazar-Guillen's drug organization. Muehleck said all have either pleaded guilty or were found guilty of various drug-related charges.

Following the indictments of Salazar-Guillen and Ruiz-Castro, major drug activity on Maui came to a virtual halt, Muehleck said.

"I'm sure there's drug activity over there now, but for a period of time it was pretty dry. So it was successful for a while," he said.