California man gets 20-year sentence for meth trafficking

WAILUKU — A 20-year prison term was ordered Thursday for a California man who was arrested last year with a “significant” amount of methamphetamine that he was selling in the community, a deputy prosecutor said.

Raymond Tofu Aioletuna, 35, had moved into a Kahului rental unit and lied to his landlord by saying he was working at Walmart “so he could maintain a cover in our community while he continued to deal drugs,” said Deputy Prosecutor Tracy Jones.

Aioletuna was the focus of a police vice narcotics investigation when officers executed search warrants for him, his residence, his vehicle and two cellphones at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 24, she said. Police recovered 482.42 grams, or more than 1 pound, of methamphetamine in plastic packets and a Crown Royal bag in Aioletuna’s bedroom closet, Jones said.

“That amount is significant,” she said. “It’s over a pound. It’s 17 ounces of methamphetamine.”

She said packets, scales and other drug paraphernalia also were seized, along with $36,000 in cash.

The police investigation, including cellphone analysis, showed Aioletuna was “underselling” the drugs, offering 1 pound for $10,000, to people on Maui so he could “establish a line of drug distribution,” Jones said.

Based on money orders and receipts, it appeared that proceeds from the drug sales were sent to the Mainland, she said.

In a court hearing last year, 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.

His attorney, Cary Virtue, said Aioletuna denies being a member of that gang.

He acknowledged that Aioletuna was sent to a juvenile detention facility for a homicide.

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 court Thursday, Aioletuna pleaded no contest to first-degree promotion of a dangerous drug.

His plea agreement called for the prosecution to dismiss charges of possessing drug paraphernalia and promoting a controlled substance near a school or park. Police said the residence on Puumakani Street that Aioletuna was renting is within 750 feet of Maui Waena Intermediate School and a park.

Aioletuna asked to be sentenced Thursday, waiving the preparation of a presentence investigation.

He declined to speak in court.

Virtue said Aioletuna and his wife live in Carson, Calif., and he has support from friends and family members. He had been working at a union job in California oil refineries, Virtue said.

“He doesn’t make any excuses for his actions,” Virtue said. “He takes responsibility.”

Jones said Aioletuna “is exactly the kind of person” that “we need removed from us.”

“He has a dangerous past,” she said. “He hasn’t changed. He’s just very dangerous in a very different way, but a very real way.”

“Drugs are not a victimless crime,” Jones said. “They’re sort of the invisible monster in our community.”

Second Circuit Judge Peter Cahill said he agreed with Jones’ comments. “I don’t think it’s an invisible monster,” Cahill said. “It’s rampant. The other side of it is he’s accepting responsibility.

“I’m not only sentencing Raymond Aioletuna here today, but I’m sentencing his family as well,” Cahill said. “That’s a punishment that is in many measures unfair because those little kids didn’t do anything wrong to anybody. But that is a consequence of his actions.”

The Hawaii Paroling Authority will determine the minimum time Aioletuna must serve before being eligible for parole, Cahill said.

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

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