Officer arrested in connection with marijuana growing operation

Published  3:59 PM HST Apr 10, 2011
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HONOLULU -

A Honolulu police officer was arrested in connection with his role in a marijuana growing operation in Honolulu and Mililani Mauka, according to federal court documents.

Honolulu Police Officer Michael Steven Chu has been on the force for 13 years.  He was scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday.

Chu has been charged with conspiring to possess and distribute nearly 50 marijuana plants and one pound of processed marijuana.

Court documents show Chu and a woman, Athena Lee, were arrested after Drug Enforcement Administration agents found 20 marijuana plants, large amounts of cash, and paperwork last Friday at the Moana Pacific Towers on Kapiolani Boulevard.

Agents also found a pound of marijuana and money orders in Chu's subsidized police car.

Chu and the woman happened to show up at the apartment during the search.  Court documents show Chu was carrying a "plastic bag that contained nutrients and materials that are used in the indoor grow."

The next day, agents found a marijuana growing operation at Chu's home in Mililani Mauka.

Chu's neighbors say they never suspected the police officer would be charged with conspiring to distribute marijuana.

"My jaw just dropped," said Mililani Mauka resident Ellen Autele.  "You never knew or would think that."

"It was disheartening to hear that kind of thing happen to him," said neighbor Wayne Autele.  "It does put a black eye on all policemen.  When you get one bad egg like this, it just taints everybody."

DEA agents launched an investigation when a Fed-Ex employee at the Honolulu International Airport intercepted a suspicious package that contained eight marijuana plants on April 5.

"It's a little embarassing for me because I'm a former police officer and I didn't smell anything and see anything," said Wayne Autele.

Federal agents say Chu told them he "just works for Athena Lee and helps her carry things for the grow operation."

Court documents detail how Lee, before the arrest, was also carrying a "bag that contained approximately $12,000... in $2,000 bundles and rubber banded together."

The Honolulu Police Department said Officer Chu has been placed on leave without pay and his police powers have been removed.

"This is a very serious allegation, and we are cooperating with the DEA in its investigation," said Honoulu Police Department Chief of Police Louis Kealoha.  "The HPD has also initiated its own internal administrative investigation into the alleged activity."

"Any officer or civilian employee who violates the public trust by engaging in this type of activity should not be a part of the Honolulu Police Department," said Chief Kealoha.

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