4th member of suspected cross-island drug and gambling ring arrested in Maui

June 24 – The fourth member of an alleged meth, cocaine and gambling ring that operated drugs and gambling halls on Oahu and Maui was arrested late last night by Maui police.

Desmond Morris, 38, had been on the run since a 14-count indictment obtained on May 19 was unsealed on June 3.

“At 11:45 p.m. last night, Desmond Morris was located and arrested,” Alana Pico, information and education specialist for the Maui Police Department, said in a statement to the Star-Advertiser. “He remains in federal custody.”

Morris was, 37, from Waianae, the alleged leader of the group, which coordinated the distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine, illegal gambling halls and online gambling apps on Maui and Oahu. His alleged co-conspirators in Maui are Maafu Pani, 37, and Touanga Niu, 21.

Tauheluhelu was arrested on June 3 in Oahu. Pani and Niu were also arrested that day in Maui, in an operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Maui police dubbed “Operation Faikava.”

Tauheluhelu, Pani and Niu are due on November 14 before U.S. District Judge Jill A. Otake.

For more than four years, the Tauheluhelu crew allegedly used a mobile burner purchased on behalf of others to communicate and coordinate cocaine and methamphetamine shipments from the mainland to Oahu and Maui, according to federal court documents.

The alleged scheme also involved recruiting youths to circumvent Transportation Security Administration screening sites by flying Mokulele Airlines to transport cash, methamphetamine and cocaine between Oahu and Maui.

Tauheluhelu operated illegal gambling halls at 980 Queen St. in Honolulu, behind a snack bar at 975 Queen St. and in a secret VIP lounge above its Staxx Sports Bar and Grill restaurant in Waianae, federal court documents show. .

The group reportedly used a series of gaming apps that allowed gamers to play digital games from anywhere after purchasing credits that could be redeemed for cash.

Pani allegedly sold drugs and ran an illegal gambling business at his Snaxx stores in Lahaina and Wailuku. Federal agents and Maui police seized seven firearms, two untraceable ghost guns, a crossbow, 15 pounds of methamphetamine, 2 pounds of cocaine, 20 digital gambling machines, gambling records, $68,000 in cash and a money counter while executing 14 search warrants on June 3.

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