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Paia man found with drugs, stolen gun to pay $10,000 fine

WAILUKU — Given the choice of spending 18 months in jail or paying a $10,000 fine, a Paia man opted for the fine, as he was sentenced Tuesday for possessing methamphetamine and a stolen gun found in a police search of his home.

Edwin Dela Cruz, 68, was placed on four years’ probation as part of his sentence.

A review of the report prepared for the sentencing “made one thing very clear — Mr. Dela Cruz is a dealer in methamphetamine,” said Deputy Prosecutor Mike Kagami.

He said Dela Cruz told a probation officer that he doesn’t use illicit substances. “Therefore, the drugs recovered by the police is for sale,” Kagami said.

Based on that, he said jail was appropriate. But taking into account Dela Cruz’s age and medical conditions, Kagami said the prosecution was seeking a “hefty fine” instead.

He said police obtained search warrants based on a drug sale by Dela Cruz.

When officers executed the warrants for Dela Cruz and his residence on Baldwin Avenue on April 12, 2019, police reported recovering nearly 14 grams of methamphetamine, digital scales, cash, marijuana, a stolen .38-caliber revolver and ammunition. The gun belonged to a Kula resident who noticed it was missing after returning home from a trip in November 2018.

More than $12,000 in cash was found under the bed, police reported.

Deputy Public Defender Zach Raidmae said that when Dela Cruz pleaded guilty to second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and first-degree theft in January, he explained that he loans money to people and someone had paid him back with a “brick of meth and a gun.”

Dela Cruz attempted to sell the drug to recover the money, Raidmae said.

“He was engaged in nasty behavior before. It’s not happening anymore,” Raidmae said in asking the judge not to sentence Dela Cruz to jail.

Second Circuit Judge Peter Cahill said Dela Cruz shouldn’t be making loans.

“If you want to lend money to people, go open a bank or a savings and loan or a credit union,” Cahill said. “You cannot lend any more of these people money. That’s what’s getting you in trouble.”

He said Dela Cruz, a carpenter who lives on a pension and Social Security, was supporting family members living at his house.

“His problems are his own creation,” Cahill said. “It’s all well and good to be nice to the family, but he could go to jail for 10 years. That needs to be taken seriously.”

Cahill said Dela Cruz needed to tell anyone who has a gun at the house to remove the weapon or leave.

“I’ll give you a choice — you can go to jail today for 18 months or you can pay the $10,000 fine requested by the state,” the judge told Dela Cruz. “Which do you want to do?”

“I would pay the fine, your honor,” Dela Cruz said through an Ilocano interpreter.

Cahill said that once the money confiscated from under the bed is returned to Dela Cruz, he should report to his probation officer and use the money to pay the $10,000 fine.

Dela Cruz was ordered not to possess illegal substances and drug paraphernalia.

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

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