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“Career drug dealer” Epati Malauulu sentenced to 20 years for transporting ‘meth’

A Samoan man residing in California, described by federal agents as a “career drug dealer” and leader of a drug gang has been sentenced to serve 20 years in jail, for his role in the transporting of a “large quantity of meth” from California to Hawai’i, according to federal court documents.

Federal agents say the DOJ’s case against defendant Epati Herbert Malauulu, whose drug conviction goes back to 1992, is linked to the arrest of 44 people in Hawai’i in connection with a federal investigation, according to court documents.

Malauulu along with co-defendants John Ortiz, Algernon Tamasoa and Francisco Poloai were charged in June 2015 with several felony counts in connection with the distribution and possession of methamphetamine, according to a 61-page criminal complaint, which details federal and state agents in California and Hawai’i investigation into drugs being sent via postal service from Northern California to Hawai’i.

The complaint also includes surveillance photos of the homes of the defendants as well as their movements and locations of where the drug exchanges occurred. The investigation, according to the complaint, started in August 2014

Prosecutors say in court documents that Tamasoa and Poloai are cousins to Malauulu, who is friends with Ortiz.

Malauulu was initially faced with eleven counts but early this year he pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine, according to his plea agreement and court records.

According to court documents, Malauulu operated a methamphetamine distribution business that purchased high quality crystal methamphetamine in Northern California and distributed it in Hawai’i where it sold at a large profit. Between August 2014 and June 2015, Malauulu was responsible for mailing over 15 pounds of methamphetamine to Oahu.

The 42-year old Malauulu of Suisun City, California, appeared last week Wednesday for sentencing before US District Kimberly J. Mueller, who sentenced the defendant to 20 years in prison, although the defense had sought 13 years behind bars.

In the government’s sentencing statement, federal prosecutor Richard J. Bender recommended a 20-year jail sentence saying that with good time credits, residential drug treatment credit, and credit for time served, it becomes 15 years of actual prison time.

“While that is still a long sentence, the defendant has earned a long sentence,” Bender said, who argued for the lengthy jail term, saying that the “volume of high-purity crystal methamphetamine the defendant distributed to Hawaii was very large.”

“The government can prove Malauulu distributed over 7 kilograms but it was undoubtedly more,” he said, and noted that the defendant has a “long history of drug dealing and little or no history of gainful employment.”

Federal prosecutors say the defendant’s first drug case was in 1992 when he was 18-years old and five other separate drug cases up to 2006. Then in 2011, at age 36, he was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance for which he was given probation.

Additionally, the record doesn’t include the drug conviction from Hawai’i in 1999 or the miscellaneous other offense convictions. “So Malauulu has a very lengthy history of drug trafficking convictions,” Bender said.

The government also noted that the pre sentence report reflects very little gainful employment for the defendant, who in the last 10 years was employed sporadically as a nightclub bouncer for a few years. Bender said that the defendant is “a career drug dealer” and heads this group that was distributing multipound quantities of crystal methamphetamine from California to Hawai’i — where it sold for a substantially higher price than in California.

According to the government sentencing statement, the defendant brought into the conspiracy his codefendant-cousin Tamasoa. He directed codefendant Ortiz to ship the methamphetamine packages, and to obtain and ship the methamphetamine when Malauulu was in Hawai’i. Malauulu sold methamphetamine to his cousin-codefendant Poloai.

“Malauulu had numerous sub distributors and helpers in Hawaii to whom he supplied and/or sent the drugs,” the government said. “The volume of high-purity crystal methamphetamine the defendant distributed to Hawaii was very large.

Furthermore, the “downstream societal harm imposed on the Oahu [Hawai’i] community by the defendant was substantial.”

In arguing for a 13-year prison term, the defense sentencing statement says that Maluulu had a good childhood until his father left his mother for another woman when he was age 12. His father did not provide any financial assistance after he left. They often did not have food to eat.

“Consequently, he started petty street sales at age 12. Consequently, at age 12 Mr. Malauulu was shot four times, and his friend was shot and killed at the same time. Nonetheless, none of Mr. Malauulu’s criminal history, as set forth in the Presentence Report, indicates any history of violence. There are numerous entries but no violence. Nothing really beyond small drug sales,’ the defense says.

Additionally, “Malauulu’s life expectancy could be short because he is a 42 year-old Pacific Islander, 350 pounds, with high blood pressure, Type 1 diabetes, gout and edema.”

Malauulu also submitted a hand-written letter to the judge, saying that he made a mistake and from the beginning he didn’t understand the seriousness of his crime. “[N]ow being that I had the chance to reflect on my actions and look at if from the prosecution’s perspective, I have realized that in fact, not only did I make a mistake, I made a huge one that started a ripple effect,” Malauulu wrote.

He also “accepts full responsibility for my action” and apologizes to those who are also been affected by his actions. “I have a beautiful family who will also suffer for my actions as well,” he wrote.

Court documents say the defendant has seven children, and court records show five of his children wrote to the judge seeking leniency for Malauulu.

According to USDOJ, the investigation into Malauulu by both federal and local agents have led to 44 defendants being charged in Hawai’i and four in San Francisco in a separate case.