WAILUKU - A man described as a "runner" in a drug-dealing operation was sentenced Tuesday to a one-year jail term after being arrested last year in the largest drug bust in Maui County history.
Wallace Koga, 59, of Kula, was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and was placed on five years' probation.
"I'm sorry for my actions which put me here," said Koga, who has been incarcerated for the past eight months. "I was wrong - doing things that weren't right, being in the wrong places and also being with the wrong people."
In a deal with the prosecution, Koga pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and possessing drug paraphernalia. Two other charges were dismissed. He agreed to testify against co-defendants including Patrick Aniban, who was called the principal in the drug-dealing scheme.
Aniban, 44, is serving a 20-year prison term after pleading no contest as charged in the case. He must spend at least four years incarcerated before being eligible for parole.
Koga was at the residence that Aniban and his wife, Ohia Aniban, were renting on South Puunene Avenue in Kahului when police vice officers executed a search warrant there on Jan. 19, 2007.
Police reported seizing nearly 18.5 pounds of cocaine, more than 6 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 1 ounce of marijuana and more than $112,000 cash. Based on the drugs' estimated street value of more than $1.5 million, police said the drug seizure was the largest in Maui County.
The charges against Koga stemmed from a drug sale that police monitored on Jan. 11, 2007, about a week before the vice raid, said Deputy Prosecutor Mark Simonds.
He said the methamphetamine sale was arranged after the late Maui Police Department vice officer Jeff Hunt received information from a confidential informant that Patrick Aniban was involved in distributing methamphetamine and cocaine in Maui County and that he was assisted by Koga.
Police did surveillance of the Anibans' residence and the Wal-Mart parking lot in Kahului, where Koga met that day with the informant, who gave Koga $2,700. Then Koga drove to the Anibans' residence and was seen entering and leaving the home, Simonds said. From there, he said Koga drove back to the Wal-Mart parking lot and gave 27.92 grams, or nearly 1 ounce, of methamphetamine to the informant.
The money that the informant gave Koga was part of the cash police found in a floor safe in the garage of the Anibans' home during the raid, Simonds said.
"Basically, it shows Mr. Koga was closely tied to Mr. Aniban and closely tied to the distribution of methamphetamine in the county of Maui," Simonds said. "Despite defendant's lack of prior record, the defendant was involved in significant criminal activity."
Except for his involvement in the case, Koga had been "a law-abiding citizen of Maui his entire life," said defense attorney Ben Herren. He said Koga was raised on a farm in Kula and had worked delivering vegetables and produce.
Through his work, Koga met Patrick Aniban, who owned a Subway restaurant on Hana Highway in Kahului and was a regular customer of Koga, Herren said. "He was eventually asked to participate in the drug trafficking and he did agree to that," Herren said. "It seemed like easy money at the time."
While a transaction might net $2,000 to $3,000 for Aniban, Koga's share would be $100, Herren said.
"Mr. Koga was a minor player in this - a necessary player, we admit, but he was a minor player," Herren said. "He deeply regrets his involvement."
Herren said Koga denied knowing about the sources of the cocaine and methamphetamine that Aniban reportedly smuggled into Maui from the Mainland.
In court Tuesday, Koga said he wanted to apologize to the court, his family and friends and "everyone that I have affected."
"I am deeply saddened by all of this, and I will always be regretful," he said. "I have learned a valuable lesson - it is not OK to break the law, absolutely not. I am reminded constantly about freedom - freedom is very, very precious.
"I ask to be given a chance so I can show you I will be a positive influence and contribute to society."
While he asked to be given credit for the time he had already served and released from jail, Simonds recommended that he remain incarcerated until he has served a full year in jail.
In imposing the one-year jail term, 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza said the effect drugs have on the community was evident in the Maui Drug Court program, where hundreds of people struggle with issues related to addiction, most often to crystal methamphetamine.
"It creates a great deal of hardship on the individual, on the families, on the children," Cardoza said. "This kind of conduct has tremendous effect on the community. I hope you always keep in mind the impact that this conduct has had on the community."
In earlier sentencings, two other co-defendants were placed on probation after pleading no contest to charges in the case.
Ohia Aniban, 35, was ordered to spend 45 weekends in jail and perform 200 hours of community service as part of five years' probation when she was sentenced last week.
Matthew Otterson, 36, who was at the Anibans' home when it was raided, was placed on five years' probation earlier this year. He testified at a Maui County grand jury proceeding that led to the indictments of Koga and the Anibans.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto @mauinews.com.