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Former airline employee pleads guilty in meth trafficking case

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:54 p.m. HST, May 31, 2013

A former Delta Air Lines employee pleaded guilty today to conspiracy in a meth trafficking ring, admitting she used her security credentials to transport hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money from Hawaii to California.

Sifatutupu Fuamatu, 40, pleaded guilty in federal court in Honolulu to a conspiracy charge involving distribution and possession of methamphetamine.

The former Hawaii corrections officer was also working as a ramp agent for Delta from 2008 to 2012. Through tears, she described how she would carry a bag full of cash, which she knew came from drug sales, through the Honolulu International Airport, using a swipe card to bypass security checkpoints. She said she would hand the bag to her husband and they would fly to Los Angeles to deliver the money.

According to an indictment filed last year, Fuamatu transported $604,075 to Los Angeles in September 2011 and $554,000 in November 2011. Co-defendant Walter Dominguez paid her $6,000 for each trip, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Loo.

A criminal complaint alleges Dominguez used Delta and Transportation Security Administration employees to put 30- to 40-pound drug shipments in already screened luggage checked in by a courier. His case is pending.

The case against Fuamatu's husband, Falefia Fuamatu, is also pending. Sifatutupu Fuamatu is the eighth defendant in the network to plead guilty, Loo said.

Her sentencing is set for Dec. 9. She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. A mandatory minimum sentence is 10 years, but the judge can sentence her below the guideline range. Defense attorney Michael Green said she was released a week-and-a-half ago on $50,000 bond and is wearing an electronic monitoring device.

She was recruited into the network by her brother, John Tai, who pleaded guilty last year, Loo said. He's scheduled to be sentenced in August.

The case came to light with help from information federal agents received from a confidential source, who translated encrypted emails detailing drug transactions, according to the criminal complaint.

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