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Ex-inmate testifies in Hawaii prison gang trial

  • STAR-ADVERTISER FILE
    Halawa Correctional Facility
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A man who served 20 years for robbery, kidnapping and assault described some of the inner workings of a Hawaii prison gang Friday in federal court.

William Woods testified at the trial of Tineimalo Adkins, the inmate he said recruited him into the “USO Family,” and Feso Malufau, a former guard accused of taking bribes to smuggle drugs and cigarettes for the gang. Malufau worked at the Halawa Correctional Facility, a state prison in Oahu.

Adkins and Malufau were among 18 men indicted last year on racketeering-related charges. The others have pleaded guilty.

The USO Family formed to protect Hawaii inmates from other gangs after the state started sending its prisoners to the mainland in the 1990s because of overcrowding and budget constraints. What started as a small group of Samoans grew into a multistate organization that included any Hawaii inmate, regardless of ethnicity.

Woods, who completed his sentence last year, said he joined the USO Family in 2000 while in an Arizona prison.

New members must take an oath and read the rules, he said. They include never turning your back on an “uso,” which means brother in Samoan, “never messing around with (a member’s) baby mama, wife, girlfriend” and “no ratting.”

The USO Family participated in riots and dealt and used drugs in prison, Woods said.

He said he eventually left the gang because of “too much drama and things getting out of hand … other guys talking about killing people and things like that.”

Woods described the USO Family putting a “hit” on him, requiring him to be moved from Halawa to the Honolulu Federal Detention Center for his protection.

During cross-examination, Malufau’s attorney Barry Edwards said Woods was testifying as part of the gang’s attempt to frame Malufau. Woods denied that, saying he expects nothing from the gang and nothing from the government.

Others testifying at the trial are inmates hoping to get shorter sentences in exchange for their testimony, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Otake said.

The younger sister of another inmate who pleaded guilty to his gang involvement testified that she delivered money and cigarettes to a man she knew only as “Uncle” as a favor to her brother. Malufau has been described in court documents as being known as “Uncle.”

Shontel Jones said her brother Opherro Jones was always in and out of jail. While incarcerated, he would call her and “ask me to meet up with people to get money or to give them money,” she testified.

Jones said she didn’t know if her brother was an USO Family member. But she said another man, who also has pleaded guilty in the case, gave her instructions on how to file her brother’s tax returns.

Prosecutors say the gang committed tax fraud to fund their drug-trafficking operation, receiving refunds they weren’t entitled to by making false claims for earned income-tax credit.

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