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Maui, Oahu men accused of running illegal gambling, drug operation

During a news conference on Monday morning, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier (at podium) and Ken Sorenson, chief of the U.S. Attorney's Office District of Hawaii Criminal Division, announce the arrests of two men on Maui and one on Oahu for allegedly operating an illegal gambling and drug trafficking organization. The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo

Two Maui men and an Oahu man were arrested Friday for allegedly running a drug trafficking and illegal gambling operation, according to local and federal authorities.

An indictment unsealed Monday morning charges Maliu Tauheluhelu, 37, Maafu Pani, 37 and Touanga Niu, 21, with drug trafficking, firearm, illegal gambling business and money laundering offenses, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Hawaii announced Monday afternoon.

Desmond Morris, 38, is also charged in the indictment and has not yet been arrested.

Since the summer of 2020, Tauheluhelu allegedly led a criminal organization that distributed methamphetamine and cocaine and operated an illegal gambling business in Hawaii, while Pani allegedly oversaw the criminal organization’s drug trafficking and illegal gambling activities on Maui, according to court documents. Niu is accused of helping to transport controlled substances from Maui back to Oahu, including through flights on an airline for which there was no TSA screening.

At certain times, Morris participated in the criminal organization’s illegal activities by distributing and possessing with intent to distribute controlled substances on Maui, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The case was investigated by the FBI and task force officers from the Maui Police Department, with assistance from MPD, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement administration.

The prosecution is handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Micah Smith.

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