- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Two cousins pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a federal drug case that Kauai police say involves the largest amount of crystal methamphetamine seized during a single bust on the island.

Steve Pete Orozco II and Andrew J. Martinez pleaded not guilty Wednesday in federal court in Honolulu to meth distribution charges. Orozco is also charged with possessing a stolen handgun with a scratched-off serial number.

When they were arrested in March, Kauai police said officers found 7 pounds of meth in their Hanamaulu home. “This is the largest amount of crystal methamphetamine that the department has seized in a single incident with the take down of this drug trafficking organization,” Police Chief Darryl Perry said in a statement at the time.

Police said the meth has a street value of $1.6 million. Authorities say the popular drug sells in Hawaii for double what it goes for on the mainland, driven partly by demand and because there are limited ways of getting the drug to the islands. It can even be more expensive to buy crystal meth on outer islands than on Oahu, authorities said.

Seven pounds is a sizeable amount on an island that has a population of about 70,000 people.

According to a criminal complaint filed in court, Martinez told authorities that he moved to Kauai in 2006 with his girlfriend. His first-cousin, Orozco, moved in with them a few weeks before the arrest, the documents said, bringing with him a shoe box filled with gallon-sized plastic bags of crystal meth.

An informant led police to Orozco, who is from Stockton, California, the FBI said in the complaint. The informant arranged to buy meth from Orozco. Officers arrested Orozco and Martinez at the Lihue Walmart parking lot after the drug deal, according to the complaint.

During a search of their home, officers found several thousand dollars in cash and a semi-automatic handgun in a duffel bag. The serial number on the frame of the Glock 19 was completely scratched out and partially scratched out on the weapon’s slide, authorities said. Police found the drugs in nine gallon-sized plastic bags.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi allowed Martinez to be released to a Honolulu halfway house, with a curfew and other conditions. Martinez previously wanted to remain in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center, but has since changed his mind, his defense attorney Lynn Panagakos said.

Orozco must remain at the detention center.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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