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Man charged with Hawaii murder related to Meth trafficking

U.S. Federal District Court House, Honolulu

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A California man made his initial appearance in the District of Hawaii on Thursday, May 16, 2024 to face charges related to his role in the murder of another man in connection with drug trafficking, according to a release issued by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

Court documents say that on March 27, 2021, Filimone Tavake, 36, of San Francisco, allegedly killed a Hawaii resident at the victim’s home in connection to a drug distribution conspiracy. Tavake was arrested on March 22 in California.

Tavake is charged with carry, use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime; causing the death of a person through use of a firearm; killing while engaged in conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine; and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

If convicted, Tavake faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors for the District of Hawaii; Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill of the FBI; and Chief Arthur “Joe” Logan of the Honolulu Police Department made the announcement.

The FBI and Honolulu Police Department are investigating the case, while trial attorney Christina Taylor of the Criminal Division’s Violent Crime and Racketeering Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii are prosecuting the case.

The release noted that an indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


Documents filed in federal court allege that a 2021 Aiea murder was tied to a methamphetamine ring that included both suspect Filimone Tavake and his victim, longtime youth gang counselor Malakai “Mo” Maumalanga. who was gunned down in the carport of his Aiea residence.

As a former gang member, he worked for more than two decades counseling at-risk children at the non-profit Adult Friends for Youth.

The court document indicates that Maumalanga hadn’t given up a life involving crime, according to an earlier report published in Hawaii News Now.

The document says, “It was learned that Tavake was providing the victim methamphetamine for the victim to sell.”

It also says, “Investigators located approximately eight pounds of suspected methamphetamine at the victim’s residence. A portion of the suspected methamphetamine was submitted for analysis and tested positive for 452.7 grams of methamphetamine.”

Prosecutors said the drugs had a street value of $36,000 to $44,000.

The document concludes, “Tavake murdered the victim after the victim failed to timely pay Tavake for methamphetamine Tavake provided to the victim.”

“When you find a large amount of drugs in the residence then you know the individual came to collect on that debt,” said retired federal agent and former police officer Tommy Aiu. “It was now a drug-related homicide. A hit, based on the information.”

Retired federal public defender Alexander Silvert added: “What the government has done is they’re showing the motive for the killing in order to make out some of the crimes, which is that it was involved in drug dealing and that a gun was used.”

The memorandum also said investigators went through Maumalanga’s cell phone, which had several calls and text messages linked to Tavake.