Fourth suspect in drug trafficking operation arrested


A fourth suspect was arrested Wednesday after being indicted in an investigation into a drug trafficking organization that ran illegal gambling operations on Maui and Oahu.

Desmond Morris, 38, of Wailuku was set to be arraigned today in U.S. District Court in Honolulu.

He was reported to be at large June 6 when officials announced the arrest of three others in the operation and the seizure of at least 15 pounds of methamphetamine, $68,000 in cash, seven firearms including two untraceable ghost guns, more than 20 gambling machines, gambling ledgers and tablets used with electronic gambling.

Oahu resident Maliu Tauheluhelu, 37, was described as the leader of the organization that distributed methamphetamine and cocaine and operated illegal gambling businesses.

Maafu Pani, 37, of Lahaina allegedly oversaw criminal activities on Maui while running an illegal gambling business in his “Snaxx” shops in Wailuku and Lahaina.

Lahaina resident Touanga Niu, 21, allegedly assisted the criminal organization by transporting drugs from Oahu to Maui and taking the illegal proceeds from Maui back to Oahu on flights that didn’t have TSA screening.

Morris, who is charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and two counts of distributing a controlled substance, allegedly distributed drugs on Maui.

The organization operated from at least the summer of 2020, according to court documents.

After appearances in federal court this month, Tauheluhelu and Pani are being held without bail at the Federal Detention Center on Oahu.

Niu was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond, according to court records.

In 2nd Circuit Court, Morris has a pending case for charges including seven counts of first-degree promotion of a dangerous drug. Court records show he was released on supervision in that case on Nov. 2 after his attorney reported that Morris could live with his mother in Lahaina and work at the Salvation Army.

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


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper?


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today