Maui police and federal officials said they’ve arrested three people and are searching for a fourth for their alleged involvement in a drug trafficking and gambling ring that operated on Maui and Oahu.

Maui County locator map

During a news conference Monday at Maui’s police station in Wailuku, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier joined federal authorities to announce charges against four people: Maliu Tauheluhelu, 37; Maafu Pani, 37; Touanga Niu, 21; and Desmond Morris, 38. All of them were arrested Friday, with the exception of Morris, who authorities were still searching for Monday.

The men are accused of running a drug trafficking and gambling ring that funneled methamphetamine and cocaine throughout the islands, allegedly tapping Mokulele Airlines to travel without having to undergo airport security screenings, authorities said during the news briefing. The group is also accused of running illegal gambling rooms on Maui and Oahu, as well as laundering money and possessing illegal firearms.

Tauheluhelu, the alleged ringleader, was arrested on Oahu. The other three were from Maui.

“We’re talking about cases here that involve large amounts of narcotics, weapons and gambling devices,” Pelletier said during the news conference. “This is a recipe for disaster within any community — and it will not be tolerated in ours, or anywhere within the state of Hawaii.”

Kenneth Sorenson, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said authorities seized around $68,000, at least 15 pounds of meth, more than 20 gaming machines and seven firearms, including two untraceable “ghost guns.”

“They were investigating a difficult, highly secretive organization that utilized burner phones that they regularly dropped and avoided TSA screening by flying an airline that does not do screening,” Sorenson said.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

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