A Hansen’s disease patient pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to charges that he transported methamphetamine to Kalaupapa when he returned to Molokai from medical treatment on Oahu.
Norbert Palea, 69, Kalaupapa’s youngest Hansen’s disease resident, pleaded guilty to two charges of possessing with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
He faces up to 40 years in prison when a U.S. district judge sentences him in November.
Palea said he transported the drugs to distribute to others.
He pleaded guilty to having four grams of methamphetamine in his check-in luggage aboard a Pacific Wings flight from Honolulu to Molokai last November.
The Drug Enforcement Administration said members of its Hawaii Airport Drug Task Force tipped off that Palea might be transporting drugs to Kalaupapa.
Palea was then stopped at Pacific Wings’ Honolulu terminal and gave out permission to search his luggage.
They found the drugs in nine plastic bags in a cardboard box with Palea’s name and telephone number written on the outside.
The DEA seized the drugs but did not arrest Palea at that time.
Palea also pleaded guilty to sending 18 grams of methamphetamine to Molokai by air cargo.
The DEA said that on Feb. 26 one of its task force officers spotted Palea arriving at Kamaka Air’s cargo service counter near Honolulu Airport by taxi and dropping off two boxes. One box was sent by the state, and the other was sent by Palea addressed to another Kalaupapa resident.
The DEA said its agents searched the box Palea sent and found 18 grams of methamphetamine in plastic bags tucked into two socks.