SAN FRANCISCO – A Redwood City man was arrested and charged with possessing at least five kilograms of cocaine for distribution after state and federal agencies spent weeks tracking him and his cousin’s flights between Hawaii and California.
Javier Chavez, 45, is in Dublin’s Santa Rita Prison awaiting extradition to Honolulu, where he and his co-defendant, Ping Hong Lee, are prosecuting cocaine trafficking. The criminal complaint details how federal authorities pursued Chavez for weeks to obtain evidence of his involvement in a cocaine trafficking ring. They were largely unsuccessful until authorities in Hawaii overtook a Porsche carrying Lee and Chavez and allegedly found a duffel bag with 23 pounds of cocaine in it.
Chavez made his first appearance in court this week before US Judge Laurel Beeler, who read him his rights and asked if he understood the nature of the charges against him.
“No, I have no idea -” Chavez wanted to say, but Beeler interrupted him and warned him of a possible self-accusation in court. When she read the indictment a second time, Chavez said he understood.
The complaint alleges that the authorities are investigating Chavez’s cousin, referred to only as “Individual 1”, for allegedly trafficking cocaine from the Bay Area to Hawaii. Person 1 was also suspected of working to convert a Hawaiian bar, known as a “popular hangout” for drug traffickers, into an illegal gambling den.
The federal investigation began with a tip from the Hawaii Department of Public Safety Dep. Dexter Kauahi to an agent in the Drug Enforcement Administration, the complaint said.
“Assistant Kauahi stated that Person 1 allegedly traveled recently from California with (approximately 22-33 pounds) of cocaine,” wrote Sean Springer, DEA task force representative, in the complaint. “The Assistant Kauahi also said he learned that Individual 1 recently returned to San Francisco with $ 400,000 to $ 500,000 in currency to buy more narcotics and that he will be returning to Hawaii.”
According to the tip, federal agencies tracked Chavez and Individual 1 as they booked flights between Hawaii and California. They followed the men around airports in San Francisco and Hawaii, watched them at the American Airline’s Admiral Club, and even noted their trips to the men’s room. On January 13, Springer asked Individual 1 to consent to a search of his or her pocket at the Honolulu Airport. Person 1 appeared “nervous and shaky” to the officer, but the search did not reveal anything illegal, the complaint said.
The next day, Hawaiian authorities spotted Chavez and Individual 1 exiting the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel in Honolulu and saw Chavez – with a blue travel bag – getting into a Porsche driven by Lee. They tried to stop the Porsche, but it sped away and the authorities decided to stop the chase. But five minutes later a Honolulu police patrol car drove over the Porsche.
The 23 pounds of cocaine were found in the duffel bag, according to the complaint.
The federal prosecutor’s office confiscated the Porsche, along with an undisclosed amount of money and a gun allegedly found in it, on the grounds that the items and currency were indicted as being used for either drug trafficking or drug proceeds.
Chavez will appear in court on Feb. 8 when a judge will decide whether to release him from prison or to keep him in custody pending delivery to Hawaii.