National Drug Intelligence Center
Mexican DTOs and criminal groups dominate wholesale drug distribution in the Hawaii HIDTA region, supplying primarily other Mexican, Polynesian, and local criminal groups. These groups in turn supply midlevel quantities to retail distributors, primarily street gangs and independent dealers.
Retail drug sales in metropolitan areas take place in open-air markets (located on streets and in parking lots) and in clubs and bars, particularly in the Chinatown area of Oahu. Retail drug sales in rural areas usually take place at prearranged locations and typically are between dealers and known or referred customers. Law enforcement reporting indicates that distributors use cell phones, satellite phones, pagers, and other personal communication devices to communicate with suppliers and customers. In addition, distributors often use text messages consisting of code words that allow them to communicate with reduced risk of detection. Cell phones are used for a limited time (often no more than 30 days) before switching to a new phone and number to further reduce the possibility of having calls monitored.
Operation Vegas Pipeline
In September 2008, a federal grand jury returned additional verdicts against two of the organizational leaders targeted in Operation Vegas Pipeline. Operation Vegas Pipeline was an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation conducted by DEA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and the Honolulu Police Department. Investigative efforts focused on the illicit activities of a Mexican DTO operating between Las Vegas, Nevada, and Honolulu. This organization was responsible for shipping approximately 2,000 pounds of ice methamphetamine through the use of package delivery services from Las Vegas to Hawaii for subsequent distribution throughout the state. Proceeds from drug sales were mailed back to organization members in Las Vegas.
A total of 21 individuals were prosecuted and convicted of federal drug offenses for their roles in the drug conspiracy. Five real properties in Las Vegas, the contents of five bank accounts and a safety deposit box also held in Las Vegas, along with $8 million, were forfeited to the federal government. They were forfeited because they had been obtained with, or contained, cash proceeds from the drug trafficking conspiracy and were involved in, or traceable to, money laundering offenses.
Source: U.S. Attorneys Office District of Hawaii press release dated September 4, 2008.
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Most crimes perpetrated in Hawaii are drug-related, particularly those involving methamphetamine. According to the Western States Information Network (WSIN), there were 2,042 drug-related critical events in 2008, of which 887 were methamphetamine related. All Hawaii state and local law enforcement agencies responding to the NDTS 2008 indicated that methamphetamine was the drug that most contributed to violent crime and property crime in their jurisdictions. Additionally, data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show that 21 of the 44 cases investigated in Hawaii in 2008 were drug related; of those, 15 were methamphetamine related.
Drug abusers in Hawaii are increasingly committing property crimes, including burglaries, vehicle break-ins, and identity theft, to acquire money to purchase methamphetamine and other illicit drugs. According to the U.S. Secret Service in Honolulu, these individuals, sometimes working cooperatively in organized groups, are targeting not only homes but also automobiles parked in public areas such as beaches, parks, or scenic lookouts to steal cash, valuables, and personal identification information. Tourists are especially at risk in these locations.
Home invasion robberies of illegal indoor cannabis grow sites are a concern for law enforcement agencies in the HIDTA region. HIDTA officials report that many of these robberies go unreported because the victims do not want to alert law enforcement to their own illicit activities. HIDTA law enforcement officials also report that indoor cultivators increasingly possess weapons to protect their operations from home invasion robbers.
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