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Drug devices seized in raids

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The420Guy

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Ten O'ahu convenience stores that display and sell what authorities
say are drug paraphernalia were raided by state and federal agents
yesterday, a move that federal prosecutors call a "warning shot
across the bow" of other businesses engaged in similar sales.

Federal agents and Honolulu police conducted simultaneous raids on
convenience stores, including McCully Market, to confiscate
drug-related paraphernalia.

Officials say this glass pipe and wire mesh are part of the evidence
seized at the Y.T. Market at 465 Kapahulu Ave.

U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said that because no state law prohibits the
sale of drug paraphernalia, federal penalties will be imposed against
the 10 people, mainly business owners, who were arrested during
yesterday's raids.

"The sale of drug paraphernalia may be allowed under state law, but
it violates federal law - and it is a felony," Kubo said.

Federal penalties stemming from drug paraphernalia charges can amount
to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and forfeiture of property
and money associated with the sale of the illegal goods.

"I consider the sale of drug paraphernalia to be just as serious as
selling drugs to our residents," Kubo said.

He said federal and state agencies will continue to actively seek out
businesses in Hawai'i that display and sell drug paraphernalia. He
said more search warrants will be used and could bring more arrests.

Law enforcement agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the
Honolulu Police Department seized more than $45,000 worth of
inventory. They said the items included 849 crack pipes, 759 ice
pipes, 116 digital scales, 763 butane torches and 1,002 marijuana
pipes.

According to the DEA, drug paraphernalia comprise any legitimate
equipment, product or material that is modified or manufactured for
making, using or concealing illegal drugs. They also include bongs,
rolling papers, hitter boxes used to store and smoke marijuana, and
everyday devices like pens and lipstick holders that have been
modified to accommodate the use of illegal drugs.

Some of the businesses raided yesterday are: The Pump Liquor in
Waipahu, Chubby's Pantry in Pearl City, Nani Mini Market in Kalihi,
Brudda's Market on North School Street, Nu'uanu Liquors and Sundries
in Nu'uanu, McCully Market on McCully Street, Date Street Grocery on
Date Street, and the Y.T. Market on Kapahulu Avenue.

Most of the businesses are "mom-and-pop" type establishments. At
least one is owned by a husband and wife.

The 10 people were arrested on federal charges of selling drug
paraphernalia. They were Yong C. Tanaka, 59; Seon H. Kim, 48; Yeong
E. Chung, 31; Sang M. Chung, 66; Sung K. Medeiros, 55; Edwin
Medeiros, 57; Yong Kim, 55; Nan H. B. Chong, 53; Jong Y. Baik, 45;
and Byung D. Hwang, 50.

The investigation that culminated in yesterday's arrests began in
September when undercover HPD officers began purchasing drug
paraphernalia from businesses. During each buy, the officer had to
establish, through conversation, that the store owner or employee
knew what the pipes or other products were used for.

Hawai'i and 16 other states - including Florida, Georgia, Illinois,
Minnesota and North Carolina, do not have state laws specifically
prohibiting the sale or possession of the bongs, glass pipes or other
devices that could also possibly be used to smoke tobacco, but
federal laws prohibit their possession and sale everywhere.

HPD Capt. Kevin Lima said police cannot arrest individuals for
possession of paraphernalia if no drug residue is found in the
device. He said the presence of an illegal drug in the device is
necessary to charge someone for paraphernalia possession under state
laws.

"We're showing the public that the federal government will
prosecute," Lima said.

Keith Kamita, head of the state Narcotics Enforcement Division, said
Gov. Linda Lingle will ask the Legislature this session to change
drug paraphernalia laws to make them similar to federal laws. Kamita
said it will be part of the governor's package of legislative
proposals.

Kubo said previous attempts to amend state drug paraphernalia laws have failed.

As the drug culture in America began to spread in the '60s and '70s,
"head shops" and "hemp shops" made their appearance and marketed a
wide range of drug paraphernalia, presumably to be used strictly in
connection with the consumption of tobacco.

Some stores have tried to avoid violating federal drug laws by
labeling a bong a "water pipe."

Today, with the Internet, manufacturers have expanded sales, and,
according to the DEA, the business of selling drug paraphernalia is a
multimillion-dollar industry.

In February 2003, a series of nationwide raids dubbed Operation
Headhunter and Operation Pipe Dream resulted in the arrest of 55
people, leading Attorney General John Ashcroft to declare that the
leading suppliers of drug paraphernalia in the United States had been
shut down. No raids took place in Hawai'i.

Several tons of product was seized in the raids, and the 18 companies
targeted accounted for more than a quarter of a billion dollars of
the drug paraphernalia retail market.

Before the 2003 busts, federal drug paraphernalia laws were rarely
enforced, which led to the rapid expansion of the industry.

Many groups, such as the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws, oppose the Bush administration's policies regarding
drugs and paraphernalia. The groups believe that the Justice
Department is wasting its resources on a miniscule aspect of the drug
trafficking problem.

Reach Peter Boylan at 535-8110 or pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com


By Peter Boylan
Honolulu Advertiser Staff Writer