Hawaii Gambling Ring Smashed, FBI, ATF, Local Police Charge 15 Suspects, Seize $150,000 in Cash

Posted on: September 18, 2019, 11:59h. 

Last updated on: September 18, 2019, 01:10h.

Federal authorities and local law enforcement on Monday busted an illegal gambling operation spanning two residences on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, resulting in federal charges for 15 suspects. The operation, which resulted in the seizure of 60 non-permitted gaming machines and $150,000 in cash, was announced on Tuesday.

US Attorney Kenji Price is cracking down on illegal gambling in Hawaii. (Image: Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

Of the 15 suspects facing charges, eight are in custody and seven are still evading law enforcement. Names of who has been arrested and the accused that are on the run have not been released.

The effort to topple the illicit gambling scheme was conducted jointly by the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Department of Homeland Security, and the Honolulu Police Department (HPD).

US Attorney Kenji Price said the Monday raids, one at a residence on Pupupuhi Street in Waipahu, and another at a home on Ho’olehua Street in Pearl City, are part of ongoing efforts by federal and local law enforcement agencies to eliminate non-licensed gaming on Hawaii’s most populated island.

With today’s announcement of criminal charges, civil forfeitures, complaints, and seizures, we’re communicating a very clear message to illegal game room owners,” said Price. “Our goal is to take your property through civil or criminal forfeiture. And if you or anyone else you know happens to get a cut of the proceeds of illegal gambling, we’ll be trying to seize that, too.”

The US Attorney said three indictments, two criminal complaints, and a civil lawsuit were filed against the 15 suspects.

Strict Anti-Gaming Stance

Home to some of the country’s strictest anti-gaming laws, Hawaii has dealt with plenty of nefarious gambling operations in the past. Last month, a pair of sports bettors there were fined several thousand dollars, but missed out on felony charges. Last year, an illegal sweepstakes ring was broken, and the suspects eventually ended up suing Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro and the City Council of Honolulu, claiming malice and retaliation.

Along with Utah, Hawaii is one of just two states with no forms of legalized gambling. No casinos, no racetracks, no lotteries or scratchers, and no sports wagering.

The state permits social gambling where “no player receives, or becomes entitled to receive, anything of value or any profit, directly or indirectly, other than the player’s personal gambling winnings; and other person, corporation, unincorporated association, or entity (does not) receive or becomes entitled to receive, anything of value or any profit, directly or indirectly, from any source, including, but not limited to, permitting the use of premises, supplying refreshments, food, drinks, service, lodging or entertainment,” according to state law.

The law mandates social gambling cannot occur “at a hotel, motel, bar, nightclub, cocktail lounge, restaurant, massage parlor, billiard parlor, or any business establishment of any kind, public parks, public buildings, public beaches, school grounds, churches or any other public area.”

Rundown Of The Charges

Among the 15 suspects from the Monday raids, Zongqi Ding, Tommy Can Wei Lee, Zhong Chen, Endrews Setefano, Paolo Ioane and Matthew Samuela are facing charges of “conducting, financing,managing, supervising, directing, or owning a gambling business,” according to a Department of Justice Document obtained by Casino.org.

Jason Ishizuka, Aiyan Zhang, Seng Long Lio, Shi Min Huang, Alex Hui Zhang , and Freddy Siatunuu are facing the same charges for running an illegal gambling venture at a second location.

Ifo Nimoai, Jr. was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm with intent to use that weapon to further drug trafficking.

Nimoai, a previously convicted felon, was allegedly found at one of the illegal gaming properties last year with methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and a .45 caliber pistol.