Update: Two plead guilty to drug charges in Honolulu
A drug defendant of Polynesian decent accused by federal prosecutors of using his airline credentials at the Los Angeles International Airport to bypass security check points in order to transport drugs to Hawai’i, has entered a plea in the federal court in Honolulu, where a Samoan man has been charged in a separate, major drug case in which three Samoan brothers are defendants. Two of those brothers were arrested in the territory two years ago.
Tulituafulu Tuli Maata was initially charged under a criminal complaint in April this year, of knowingly and intentionally possessing, with intent to distribute, 500 grams of methamphetamine. Then last Thursday, he was charged with two drug counts under a federal grand jury indictment, in which he entered a not guilty pled during a hearing the following day at the federal court in Honolulu.
According to an affidavit, federal agents were told by an FBI cooperating witness (CW) about Maata being the drug supply source for the CW between 2008 and 2010, and that Maata was an American Airlines’ employee at the Los Angeles airport (LAX), where he works as an aircraft fueler.
Maata, using his airline security access credential, hand-carried five to ten pounds of methamphetamine on board American Airlines flights from Los Angeles to Honolulu about once a month, the complaint alleges.
“Maata was able to pass through airport security check points as everyone else at LAX knew him,” the complaint further alleges, adding that the CW would pick up Maata at the Honolulu International Airport and the ice — and sometimes cocaine — would be fronted, that is sold on credit.
CW explained that Maata would travel back to Hawai’i to pick up the money or would wait for the sale to be done.
However, it was sometime in 2010 that CW’s relationship with Maata deteriorated. The pair didn’t hook up again until two years later, when they started to work out a new drug deal, while CW was being monitored by the FBI.
The 11-page complaint outlined dates and times when CW and Maata tried to hook up a new drug deal, which called for Maata traveling to Hawai’i with the drugs. The complaint also looked into the world of drug dealing and the language used when making a transaction using text messages or voice phone calls.
For example, in a Feb. 12, 2013 phone conservation monitored by the FBI, Maata told CW that his source had crystal methamphetamine, but was having a problem obtaining cocaine. Maata also stated that he was bringing about four pounds of methamphetamine to Hawai’i.
During the phone call, Maata referred to cocaine as “the Lakers” and methamphetamine as “USC” and a “ticket” referred to a pound of dope, according to the complaint, which also states that the words “the Lakers” and “USC” were also used in text messages.
The drug transaction didn’t materialize until April this year, when Maata traveled to Hawai’i to meet CW, who was monitored and followed by federal agents. Maata was arrested, at which time, over three pounds of meth were seized and the defendant allegedly told federal agents that he fronted the drugs in Los Angles for $13,000 a pound, according to court documents.
Upon sale of the drugs, he was expected to make about $2,000 per pound after his supplier was paid, the complaint alleges. Maata remains in custody with trial set to begin next January.
In a separate drug case, Amako Malepeai is facing two drug charges including possession with intent to distribute 500 grams — or about 10.5 pounds — of methamphetamine in connection with a major drug case in which brothers John, Kaisa and Louis Tai were charged in 2011.
Kaisa is going to trial later this month with ten other defendants, including a couple of Samoans, while John and Louis Tai pled guilty last year in separate plea agreements with prosecutors and will be sentenced early next year.
In Malepeai’s case, prosecutors allege that between March 2009 and February 2010 — during six separate incidents — the defendant received meth for distribution. For example, on Dec. 15, 2009, Malepeai received one-pound of methamphetamine from Louis Tai, which was supplied by John Tai and was later provided to Aloali’i To’oto’o for distribution.
In another incident, Malepeai received four pounds of meth from Louis Tai, which was supplied by John Tai and was later provide to To’oto’o for distribution.
According to court records, Malepeai had a previous drug conviction, where he was sentenced in 2007 to 80 months imprisonment followed by 5 years of supervised release. Prosecutors included this previous conviction in court filings.
Last Friday, Malepeai pled guilty in the Honolulu federal court and sentencing is set for May of next year. The court also set bail at $25,000 unsecured bond as well as several conditions of bail release, which includes that his travel is restricted to the island of Oahu, and he is prohibited from possessing or using any “illicit drugs”.