Judge keeps bail at $1 million for suspect in drug case

WAILUKU — A judge kept bail at $1 million for a man who was arrested after police vice officers reported seizing more than 1 pound of crystal methamphetamine and more than $36,000 in cash during searches of his vehicle and residence in Kahului.

Raymond Tofu Aioletuna, 35, had asked to be released on supervision or to have his bail reduced.

The prosecution opposed the request.

“He’s a high-level dealer with dangerous connections and a dangerous history,” Deputy Prosecutor Tracy Jones said during a court hearing Thursday.

Defense attorney Cary Virtue said Aioletuna is married, has a residence in Carson, Calif., and works as a boilermaker and safety attendant.

While acknowledging that Aioletuna was sent to a juvenile detention facility for a homicide, Virtue said “that was quite some time ago.”

“He did prison time but was released 15 years ago and has not had any additional arrests for felonies,” Virtue said.

Aioletuna was 13 years old in 1995 when he was sent to the California Youth Authority for killing a 13-year-old boy, a former classmate, by shooting him in the head, according to an article published in the Los Angeles Daily News on Sept. 29, 2004.

In a memorandum opposing Aioletuna’s release on supervision, Jones said police executed search warrants for Aioletuna, his residence on Puumakani Street, his rental car and two of his cellphones at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 24.

Police recovered 482.42 grams of crystal methamphetamine, $36,160 in cash and drug paraphernalia, according to the memorandum. The residence he was renting is within 750 feet of Maui Waena Intermediate School and a park, the memorandum says.

In addition to the methamphetamine weighing more than 1 pound and cash, police found money grams and receipts, “which are suspected to also be evidence of the off-island transfer of proceeds from defendant’s narcotic sales,” the memorandum says.

Jones said photos publicly posted on Facebook pages of Aioletuna and his wife show him with tattoos and wearing blue clothing with symbols suggesting his association with a Pacific Islander/Asian gang called the East Side 15th Street Suisidals or Suicidal clique of the Sons of Samoa Crips.

In some photos, Aioletuna is flashing a gang symbol, Jones said.

Virtue said Aioletuna denies being a member of that gang.

“The fact that he wears blue doesn’t mean he’s a gang member,” Virtue said. “The Suicidals is also a music group.

“We know he has a family, he has friends in California. He has Facebook pictures going back three or four years.”

Jones said Aioletuna made misrepresentations to the landlord of the ohana unit the defendant was renting in Kahului. The landlord had contacted the defendant about the rental after Aioletuna posted a Craigslist ad seeking housing on Maui in July.

In an email replying to the landlord, Aioletuna said: “I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs. I do not have any pets. I am looking for residency for just myself. I am currently employed by Walmart. I moved from California, being staying with family here and have enough money saved up to make it on my own,” according to the memorandum.

Jones said Aioletuna wasn’t working at Walmart.

“He was here to sell drugs and to stay under the radar,” Jones said. “He has no ties to our community.”

Aioletuna has pleaded not guilty to first-degree promoting a dangerous drug, promoting a controlled substance near a school and possessing drug paraphernalia.

Second Circuit Judge Peter Cahill said he was considering the allegations and the admission that the defendant had been involved in a serious crime in denying Aioletuna’s request to reduce his bail. Cahill said Aioletuna could post assets equivalent to the amount or cash as bail.

Aioletuna won’t be allowed to leave the island while his case is pending, Cahill said.

“He had access to huge amounts of cash,” Cahill said. “Most of our defendants don’t have the two bucks to get on the bus, let alone walk around with $36,000 cash.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.