HONOLULU — After deliberating for about two weeks in what’s been described as Hawaii’s biggest crystal meth case, jurors convicted a California man in a conspiracy to distribute 400 pounds of the drug to the islands.
The jury on Friday acquitted two of his co-defendants, including Kaisa Tai, who walked out of the Honolulu federal courthouse a free man after three years in custody.
“Freedom is always something you should hold on to dearly,” Tai said as he walked away from the courthouse.
The second defendant acquitted, Aloalii Tootoo, was already free on bond.
Jurors weren’t able to reach a unanimous verdict on the main conspiracy charge for Fouina Toilolo. But he was found not guilty of a charge involving intent to possess and distribute meth. Prosecutors said they intend to re-try Toilolo on the charge the jury couldn’t decide on.
Six men originally went on trial, but two of them were later acquitted because the judge ruled there was a lack of evidence. The case ran into other significant prosecutorial setbacks, including the judge ruling that prosecutors were “sloppy” and “tardy” in providing discovery materials to the defense. U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi also referred Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Loo to the federal Department of Justice’s office of professional responsibility.
Prosecutors said the men received meth from Walter Dominguez, of Carson, Calif. Cooperating witnesses testified about how the men used encrypted emails and code words to transport drugs to Hawaii and cash back to California.
In his closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck said the ring wasn’t very sophisticated or complicated but involved methods such as sending batches of cash back to California disguised as presents and using connections with airline employees.
Before the men went on trial, Sifatutupu Fuamatu, a former Delta Air Lines ramp agent, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the ring, admitting she used her security credentials to transport hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money from Hawaii to California. She said Dominguez paid her $6,000 for each trip.
Dominguez is scheduled to be sentenced in September. He faces life in prison.