State’s biggest drug bust
by Amanda C. Gregg - The Garden Island
MOUNT WAI‘ALE‘ALE — Local, state and federal officials made the largest marijuana bust ever yielded from public land in September 2007, which resulted in five residents being arrested on felony drug-related charges.
A local investigation into an alleged massive growing operation began Nov. 4, 2006, when Kaua‘i Police Department’s drug enforcement vice squad, made up of seven officers, spotted marijuana cultivation at the end of Kuamo‘o Road and at the foot of Mount Wa i‘ale‘ale.
Several entities then conducted video surveillance of the area from July 30 through Aug. 13, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara said surveillance video showed the suspects caring for, shoveling and fertilizing a massive marijuana grow operation. The surveillance and investigation resulted in the September arrests of five local suspects, Edward H. Holland, Mark Steven Darling, Robert J. Bihm, Melissa A. Bihm and Ryan E. Bihm, who were expedited to O‘ahu to Honolulu federal court to face charges of cultivating 1,000 or more marijuana plants, a Schedule I controlled substance.
U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said law enforcement collected a 6,000 marijuana plant bounty with a “street value” of roughly $6 million, according to Kubo. Officials also seized six trucks used in moving the marijuana.
Holland faces a longer sentence than the four other defendants, as he has a prior felony conviction from 1991, according to Kawahara. Considered the lead defendant, Holland’s mandatory minimum, if convicted, is 20 years imprisonment,
“The other four defendants are looking at a statutory minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison because the alleged amount of marijuana was 1,000 or more marijuana plants,” Kawahara said.