Undercover Operation Results in 138 Gambling Arrests 11-05-01

PHONE: 961-2253
NOVEMBER 5, 2001


A 22-month undercover operation by the Hawaii County Police Department has resulted in more than 100 gambling arrests in the South Hilo and Puna Districts.

A total of 138 separate arrests for 357 gambling and gambling-related offenses resulted from the undercover operation, which began in December 1999.

The cases have been forwarded to the Hawaii County Prosecutor’s Office for further disposition.

The operation began as an undercover “sting” operation conducted by Hilo Criminal Investigation Section detectives. The operation consisted of using “business fronts” to purchase stolen items.

The evidence was used to develop criminal cases against individuals who traffic in stolen property and who commit burglaries in the Hilo and Puna Districts. That operation resulted in the recovery of $170,526 in stolen property and the return of $153,500 in property to its owners.

The stolen property included firearms, electronic equipment, mechanical and woodworking tools, fishing equipment, camera equipment and vehicles. In one theft, a new $30,000 truck had been sold to undercover operators before the dealership knew the truck had been stolen.

A total of 55 arrests for theft and related offenses were made during the project period, which ended June 30, 2001. Another 30 more arrests are expected after grand jury indictments are processed.

In related investigations, another 52 drug cases were initiated.

During the investigation, the CIS detectives were approached by individuals to set up gambling operations.

The gambling investigation was turned over to the Hilo Vice Section. The Vice Section investigation uncovered several gambling operations conducted at both private residences and business establishments.

Several business establishments were involved in gambling operations. They included Reyn’s Repair, an engine repair shop on Leilani Street, and T’s Exchange, a computer repair shop on Keawe Street, set up as fronts by the police in the undercover operation.

Others were arrested for gambling activities taking place at private residences on Uilani Street and King Kamehameha Street in the Ainaloa subdivision of Puna. Finally, a customer was arrested for a sports betting operation at a bar. Neither the management nor its employees was involved in the sports betting operation.

The undercover sting operation was started under Captain Francis H. Rodillas, then a lieutenant in charge of the Hilo Criminal Investigation Section.

Taking part in the operation were Lieutenants Paul K. Ferreira and Steven Guillermo, then Hilo CIS detectives, and Hilo CIS Detectives Andrew S. Burian and Duane Rapoza.

The project was funded by a Byrne Administration Grant administered by the State Attorney General’s Office.

The operation had a major impact on the number of burglaries. For example, the number of burglaries in South Hilo declined 30 percent over a two-year period, from 543 in 1998 to 376 in 2000.

The undercover sting operation confirmed the suspicion that drug activity and dependence have a major impact in crimes against property. Drug dealers were found to trade drugs for household items. The dependence on drugs increases the incidences of property crimes.

It also confirmed that individuals involved in gambling also perpetrate or benefit from property crimes. It was noted that gamblers who fell into debt would be forced to sell property such as vehicles and jewelry to pay off their debts. Several individuals would also act as enforcers to collect debt to include property by extortionate means.

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