Judge: ‘Lots and lots’ of drugs add up to 5-year term

WAILUKU – A five-year prison term was ordered Friday for a Kihei man who was arrested with drugs three times during a four-month period last year.

On two occasions, Leo Mendoza, 28, was the target of police vice investigations that led to the execution of search warrants at his residence, said Deputy Prosecutor Tracy Jones. In the other case, he was found with drugs after a traffic stop, she said.

Second Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo noted that Mendoza was found with “lots and lots of methamphetamine and marijuana,” which resulted in eight felony convictions in the three cases.

“By my addition, that very easily equals a five-year prison term,” Loo said.

Mendoza had pleaded no contest to five counts of third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and three counts of possessing drug paraphernalia.

The first search warrants were executed May 18, 2012, on Mendoza’s residence and vehicle, with police finding 3.39 grams of methamphetamine, including seven packets of the drug packaged for sale, Jones said. A smoking pipe and marijuana also were recovered.

Mendoza told police he had been using the drug for two years and bought one-eighth ounce, selling $40 packets to make back the money, Jones said. Mendoza also was found with weapons including a butterfly knife, with those charges dismissed.

Three months later, on Aug. 16, 2012, Mendoza was stopped for not wearing a seat belt and talking on a cellphone while driving when he was found with oxycodone pills and a plastic packet containing one-half gram of methamphetamine in a box in his waist, Jones said. She said he didn’t have a driver’s license at the time.

A month later, on Sept. 21, Mendoza was again the target of a second set of vice search warrants that were executed at his residence on Akai Street, Jones said. In the search, police recovered 5.5 grams of methamphetamine, 20 grams of marijuana, a .22-caliber handgun and ammunition, Jones said.

Mendoza admitted to trying to sell the methamphetamine and told police he could earn $1,000 by breaking down the amount into quantities for street sales, she said. He admitted obtaining the gun by trading drugs for it, Jones said.

Firearm charges against Mendoza were dismissed because the weapon wouldn’t fire when it was tested by police, she said, although Mendoza may not have known that. Jones said Mendoza’s girlfriend testified that he obtained the gun “because people were trying to jack him.”

Before the arrests last year, Mendoza had no felony convictions, Jones said.

“You have to commend the police because he had been flying under the radar for some time,” she said. “The police have once again done their excellent work to remove a drug dealer from the community.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at