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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, April 26, 2002

Maui officer arrested in drug raid

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

Special Agents Daniel Dzwilewski, right, and Dan Kelley review the items seized in the drug raids. Dzwilewski is the special agent in charge of the Honolulu FBI office, and Kelley is the organized crime drug squad supervisor.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Members of an international methamphetamine distribution ring who were arrested by federal and local authorities in the past two days probably supplied about 50 percent of the "ice" sold to Maui users, Maui Police Chief Thomas Phillips said yesterday.

Among those arrested is a Maui police officer.

Phillips said Maui is experiencing the same kinds of problems associated with increased crystal meth use as other counties across the state and communities on the Mainland as well.

While property crimes such as theft and burglaries, which are often driven by drug use, have remained steady on Maui, Phillips said he believes strong-arm robberies "where a guy is slugged and his wallet is taken" have increased.

So, too, are the number of domestic violence cases, Phillips said.

"A lot of the time, those are related to substance abuse," Phillips said. "Crystal meth has become the drug of choice on Maui."

According to the FBI, 40 people were arrested and charged with federal drug counts in connection with what federal officials named

"Operation Awaroot." Twenty-four are from Maui and one from Moloka'i. The others are from Honolulu and California.

Mateaki: Officer has 8 1/2 years of service
James Mateaki, a Maui Police Department patrol officer with about eight and half years of service, was was arrested and faces a mandatory 10-year prison term if convicted. Phillips said there was no prior indication that Mateaki might be involved with drugs since he passed a number of screening tests without problem.

He said Mateaki, whom he described as "not a major player," was arrested Tuesday and that no other officers "are implicated at this point."

Daniel Dzwilewski, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Honolulu, said several of those arrested during the bust were "associates" of Richard "Tiki" Taumoepeau.

Federal officials believe Taumoepeau headed a drug ring that distributed up to 1,100 pounds of cocaine to Hawai'i, Guam, Tonga, New Zealand and Australia from 1990 to 1997. Dzwilewski said Taumoepeau, who was convicted in federal court on drug conspiracy charges, is serving a 40 year sentence.

The alleged drug distribution ring broken up this past week shipped cocaine and primarily crystal methamphetamine, much of which was produced in Mexico, to Honolulu through Los Angeles and San Francisco. The remainder of the drugs not kept in Hawai'i was then distributed in Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, Dzwilewski said.

Drug couriers sometimes cut open basketballs, put the drugs inside and then reseal and re-inflate the balls, Dzwilewski said. In other instances, they used stuffed animals and toy trucks to conceal the drugs.

Seized earlier this week during raids on the homes of suspected drug distribution ring members were about $350,000 in cash, 3 pounds of cocaine and a pound of crystal methamphetamine. Another $250,000 in cash and 7 pounds of methamphetamine were seized prior to the Wednesday raids.

Phillips said that while the arrests have put a major dent in the supply of illicit drugs flowing into Maui, other distribution rings will likely increase the amounts they import.

Success in eradicating the problem will come only when demand for the drugs is eliminated, Phillips said.

The arrests this week mark the third time in recent years that substantial drug distribution rings on Maui have been broken up.

Reach David Waite at dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8030.