DALLAS — A Dallas-area man who admitted to his role in transporting cocaine on flights from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) was sentenced Thursday to nearly 16 years in federal prison.
This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
This investigation was led by the FBI, Dallas Police Department and Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation. The following agencies assisted with this investigation: Texas Department of Public Safety; DFW Department of Public Safety; U.S. Department of State; Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Transportation Security Administration; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO); and the Texas police departments of Fort Worth, McKinney, Mesquite and Plano.
Moniteveti Katoa, aka “Vince,” 53, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle to 188 months in federal prison following his guilty plea in January 2016 to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. Moniteveti Katoa has been in custody since mid-July 2015 following a law enforcement operation in which numerous defendants were arrested on drug distribution conspiracy and related charges. These charges were outlined in a federal superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Dallas the previous month.
That superseding indictment charged Moniteveti Katoa, and the following three others, with the cocaine distribution conspiracy offense: Funaki Falahola, 34, Molitoni Katoa, 34, and Janelle Isaacs, 42. All four defendants have pleaded guilty to that offense. Molitoni Katoa was sentenced last week to 90 months in federal prison. Funaki Falahola is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 20; Janelle Isaacs is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 1. The statutory penalty for the offense is not less than 10 years and up to life in federal prison, and a $10 million fine.
Funaki Falahola told undercover officers he had family members who could transport controlled substances via commercial airline. Funaki Falahola introduced Moniteveti Katoa to agents as his uncle and family leader. Molitoni Katoa was also introduced as Falahola’s cousin and a person that could smuggle controlled substances into the DFW airport through his DFW airport job at the cargo area. Moniteveti Katoa’s wife, Janelle Isaacs, worked for American Airlines.
According to documents filed in the case, the four used their positions of employment at DFW, or contacted a person or persons who had a position or positions of employment at DFW, to bypass security in order to transport kilogram quantities of a substance that was represented to be cocaine, in what they did not know was an undercover law enforcement operation. As part of the conspiracy, that ran from about April 18, 2013, through July 14, 2015, the substance that was represented to be cocaine was transported on commercial airlines flying from DFW to destinations in Las Vegas, Nevada; Newark, New Jersey; Phoenix, Arizona; Chicago, Illinois; Wichita Kansas; and San Francisco, California.
According to testimony at the Sept. 22 sentencing hearing, Moniteveti Katoa told undercover agents in November 2014 that he had the DFW airport wired so well he could sneak a bomb into the airport if he wanted to. In December 2014, agents asked Moniteveti Katoa if he would be willing to smuggle plastic explosives into the airport. Moniteveti Katoa initially expressed concern about the possibility of the explosives exploding in an airplane. After being told by undercover officers that they would not explode without a detonator, Moniteveti Katoa agreed to smuggle the explosives into the airport as he had done previously with the “cocaine.” Moniteveti Katoa agreed to bypass security at DFW airport and then hand the explosives to another person for that person to fly the explosives on an airplane to another city.
Falahola introduced Moniteveti Katoa to the undercover officer who was interested in smuggling cocaine from DFW Airport. He noted that Moniteveti Katoa had worked for American Airlines for 25 years and was a leader in the Tongan community. Falahola advised the undercover officers that they could transport the cocaine to major U.S. cities as well as to Hawaii and New Zealand. Moniteveti Katoa advised the undercover officer that he was willing to fly to locations in advance of smuggling the cocaine to conduct security checks.
According to plea documents filed in his case, from September 2013 through May 2015, Moniteveti Katoa smuggled what he thought was cocaine on at least six flights from DFW Airport to Las Vegas, Newark, Chicago, Wichita, San Francisco, and Tempe, Arizona.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George Leal, Northern District of Texas, is in charge of this prosecution.