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Raid on Indoor Marijuana Growing Site Leads to Nine Arrests

Tips from the public led to the arrest of nine individuals last week at the scene of an indoor marijuana-growing site in Puna, which police believe is part of a larger drug distribution operation.

After receiving numerous tips, police investigation resulted in a search warrant at three adjacent properties on Tiki Lane in the Ainaloa subdivision on Thursday (October 18).

Police recovered 321 marijuana plants, 96 clones, 98.8 pounds of dried marijuana, 2.5 grams of heroin, 125 grams of hashish and 232 hydrocodone pills in indoor-growing operations at two of the properties.

Image released by HPD w/ no name

Image released by HPD w/ no name

Arrested at the scene were the occupants of the first property, 53-year-old Gilbert Espiritu and 56-year-old Phyllis Morby, and seven other persons who were present and believed to be part of the distribution operation: 46-year-old Rachelle Tuvera of Hawaiian Beaches, 43-year-old Sally Blankenship-Ziegler of Oregon, 53-year-old Tobias Nakea of Hawaiian Beaches, 22-year-old Kopia Nakea of Hawaiian Beaches, 19-year-old Kaimana Nakea of Hawaiian Beaches, 28-year-old John Muscat of Mountain View and 57-year-old Vieux Rawls of Mountain View.

On Friday (October 19), police served an additional search warrant at a home on Road 8 in Hawaiian Acres and recovered 465 marijuana plants, 643 clones, 4.2 pounds dried marijuana from another indoor-growing operation.

On Saturday, (October 20), officers recovered 37 marijuana plants and 145 grams of dried marijuana from an indoor-growing operation at property on Road 7 in Hawaiian Acres. They served a search warrant at a home on 4th Avenue in Hawaiian Paradise Park and recovered 48 marijuana plants and 3.4 pounds of dried marijuana from an indoor-growing operation.

That same day, police charged Espiritu with four counts of first-degree promotion of marijuana, two counts of second-degree promotion of marijuana, two counts of promoting a harmful drug, two counts of promoting a dangerous drug and 10 counts of possessing drug paraphernalia. His bail was set at $94,000. Morby was charged with the same offenses, as well as one count of promoting a detrimental drug. Her bail was set at $98,000. Both were held at the Hilo police cellblock until their initial court appearance on Monday (October 22).

The remaining suspects were released pending additional information.

Police thank the public for their help in identifying suspected drug operations. Anyone who has information relating to illicit drug use and distribution, may call the Vice Section’s drug tip lines at 934-”VICE” (934-8423) for information about East Hawaiʻi or 329-”ZERO-ICE” (329-0423) for information about West Hawaiʻi.

Tipsters may also call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona.