FBI Arrests American Airlines Refueler Carrying Meth

April 12--An American Airlines employee is in federal custody in Honolulu, accused of using his airline credentials to bypass airport security checks in Los Angeles to transport methamphetamine to Hawaii.

FBI agents and Honolulu police officers arrested Tulituafulu Tuli Maata on Wednesday after he arrived in Honolulu from Los Angeles allegedly carrying three to four pounds of methamphetamine.

Maata appeared in U.S. District Court on Thursday on a charge of possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of the drug.

The federal prosecutor is asking the court to order Maata to remain in custody without the opportunity for bail pending further prosecution. A detention hearing is scheduled for next week.

According to an affidavit the prosecutor filed in court Thursday, the FBI has been monitoring Maata since January, when a cooperating witness told agents that he had been communicating with Maata about bringing methamphetamine and cocaine to Hawaii.

The cooperating witness told the FBI that Maata was his drug supplier from about 2008 to 2010. He said Maata is an aircraft fueler and that he used his airline security access credentials to bypass security checks at Los Angeles Airport to transport five to 10 pounds of methamphetamine aboard American Airlines flights to Honolulu monthly.

The FBI said after agents arrested Maata on Wednesday, he admitted he was carrying more than three pounds of methamphetamine and had sold the cooperating witness two to five pounds of methamphetamine on about six occasions about two to three years ago.

In text messages between Maata and the cooperating witness, the two used code to represent drugs, the drug suppler and Maata's trips to Honolulu.

Maata referred to his supplier as "grandpa." The quantity in pounds of methamphetamine he had to transport was referred to as the number of "cousins" he was bringing to a wedding or party. Maata also referred to methamphetamine as "Laker tickets." The number of tickets indicated the number of pounds. "USC tickets" referred to cocaine.

He is the second airline employee arrested in Hawaii in the past 13 months for allegedly using his airline credentials to bypass security checks for drug distribution.

The FBI arrested Delta Airlines employee and state prison guard Sifatutupu Fuamatu in March 2012 for her alleged involvement in a drug ring that distributed nearly 400 pounds of methamphetamine from 2008 to 2012. Fuamatu is accused of transporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds to California from Hawaii.

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