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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 27, 2002

Officer allegedly gave drug dealers police data

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Maui police officer James J. Mateaki is accused of participating in a drug conspiracy on Maui by providing alleged drug dealers with information that he had access to as a police officer and offering the name of a possible drug importer, according to a court document unsealed yesterday.

Mateaki was one of 40 people arrested by the FBI this week and charged with federal drug counts, including conspiracy to distribute and possess methamphetamine and cocaine.

The FBI said the drug ring was responsible for supplying at least 50 percent of the methamphetamine, or "ice," on Maui.

FBI special agent Joel Rudow has been involved in the investigation, named "Operation Awaroot," since December 2000, according to an affidavit filed in federal court. The document accused 21 people, including Mateaki, of involvement in the ring.

Mateaki has been a patrol officer for 8 1/2 years and was described by Maui Police Chief Thomas Phillips as "not a major player" in the alleged conspiracy.

According to Rudow, Mateaki was contacted several times by Polotani Latu, who is described in the affidavit as supplier of crystal methamphetamine. Mateaki provided Latu with such information as motor vehicle registration and police booking information, Rudow said in the affidavit.

Latu also was charged with being involved in the drug conspiracy.

Mateaki is not accused in the affidavit of possessing or distributing any drugs. He also is not accused of providing information on police activities surrounding the drug ring investigation.

On Oct. 22 of last year, Latu, Mateaki and a woman, described as K-Mart employee Christine Kohler, who was also charged with participating in the conspiracy, met to discuss the confiscation by police of two basketballs that were being shipped to the store, Rudow said.

The balls allegedly contained 5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, the affidavit said.

Mateaki told Latu that someone had told police about the shipment, and he suggested that Latu "hook something up" with another person to bring additional crystal meth to replace the drugs in the two balls, Rudow said. At one point, Rudow said, Mateaki tells Latu to, "be careful."

Mateaki also is alleged to have provided information about an automobile that Latu had taken from another man who had owed him drug money, the affidavit said. Latu wanted to be sure there were no liens on the vehicle, which he planned to sell, Rudow said.

On Nov. 20, Mateaki gave Latu information about a man who was arrested on drug charges. Rudow said Latu was checking on the status of more than $60,000 that was carried by the man that Latu said was his.

Mateaki told Latu that the money was confiscated by police.

The alleged ring that was broken this week shipped cocaine and crystal meth to Honolulu through Los Angeles and San Francisco. Some of the drugs also were distributed in Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, the FBI said.