12 plead not guilty in 'Phase 2' of drug probe
A dozen people accused of selling methamphetamine were indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday as the result of evidence gathered during a two-year federal probe into allegations that an FBI secretary was tipping off drug dealers.
"What you see here is basically Phase 2 of the drug organization indicted last week," said Charles Goodwin, special agent in charge of the FBI's Honolulu division.
All 12 defendants pleaded not guilty during initial court appearances yesterday and are set to go to trial June 14.
This week's indictments stemmed from a FBI investigation into allegations that Charmaine Moniz, who started working in the FBI organized-crime and drug unit in 1999, was tipping off a drug distribution ring. Spinoffs from the investigation led to allegations that Honolulu police officers were protecting illegal cockfights and gambling operations on O'ahu's North Shore.
The federal probe so far has resulted in indictments against more than 35 individuals, including four Honolulu police officers and one former officer. The investigation is still ongoing, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
The probe started in late 2003, when the FBI learned that Moniz, a trusted secretary, was leaking sensitive information gleaned from FBI computers to drug traffickers, authorities say. It was the investigation into her case that led to a two-year probe that culminated in charges against the four police officers, the former officer and many civilians.
Moniz was charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine by disclosing "sensitive" information from FBI computers to help a drug ring avoid detection.
The indictments announced yesterday allege that between November 2004 and October 2005, undercover FBI agents bought methamphetamine from Moniz's husband, Eric "Babu" Moniz, and six associates including David "Kawika" Moniz and Keoki Moniz, who are Eric Moniz's relatives.
Also indicted were Jerome Vierra, William Militante Jr., Kenneth Meyer and Dunston D. Banaay. Other indictments were handed down against were Robert A. Watson Jr., Alden Nakoa, Corey "Bozo" Kaowili Jr., Matthew Tufono, Samson Pebria and Brody Afo.
In all, FBI agents bought or seized 333.326 grams of methamphetamine, 100 marijuana plants, a shotgun, a .22-caliber pistol, and a black Chevrolet truck.
Attorneys for the men declined comment yesterday.
Watson, of Wai'anae, is charged with a single count of possessing, with intent to distribute, more than 1,000 grams of methamphetamine. If convicted, he would face a sentence of up to life in prison and a $4 million fine, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Watson forfeited $119,000 that federal agents were able to tie to illegal activity.
Nakoa, of Kane'ohe, was charged with possessing about 365 grams of cocaine and a firearm. If convicted, he would face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Nakoa forfeited $9,000 in alleged drug proceeds.
Kaowili, Tufono, Pebria and Afo were charged with possessing, with intent to distribute, 1 pound of methamphetamine. Kaowili and Pebria are also charged with possessing an additional pound of methamphetamine.