BY JIM DOOLEY – A San Francisco woman facing federal drug trafficking charges is affiliated with a Bay Area street gang that sold drugs and committed murder here in 2009-10, according to court records.
Sulu “Pinkie” Lefiti, 38, was ordered held without bail by U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright today.
Lefiti is affiliated with the “Down Below” gang of the Visitacion Valley area of San Francisco, according to portions of a 2009 federal Drug Enforcement Administration report read in court by Seabright.
Another member of the gang, Calvin Burton, was identified in the report as Lefiti’s boyfriend and pimp.
Lefiti refused to answer questions about her boyfriend when questioned by federal authorities earlier this month after she was indicted by a Honolulu federal grand jury and arrested in the Bay Area.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady, who is prosecuting the case here, said in court papers that Lefiti “was a member of a San Francisco gang that fought with local gangs” in Honolulu over Chinatown drug sales.
The San Francisco gang “was responsible” for the March 2009 street corner murder of Joseph Peneueta, 35, Brady said in court papers.
Peneueta “was associated with a rival Samoan gang here in Hawaii,” Brady said.
Lefiti will be arraigned on the drug charges here in mid-March.
U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright ordered Lefiti held without bail after Brady argued that she poses a flight risk and danger to the community.
Lefiti’s lawyers, Joseph O’Sullivan of San Francisco and Lynn Panagakos of Honolulu, argued that Lefiti is neither dangerous nor a flight risk.
O’Sullivan said Lefiti, a mother of three children, is studying cosmetology and has an “insignificant” criminal record.
Panagakos said the DEA report about Lefiti was dated and contained vague, unsubstantiated allegations about her.
Seabright noted that Lefiti has a criminal record dating back to her juvenile years that includes a number of relatively minor offenses.
“I don’t consider it inconsequential or insignificant,” Seabright said. “It spans a long period of time.”
Two San Francisco men, Iosefa Pasene, 24, and Zorro Rye, 27, are charged with murdering Peneueta.
Trial in that case is scheduled to begin in state court in May.
Witnesses said Pasene, armed with an automatic rifle, and Rye, firing a shotgun, murdered Peneueta while he stood on a Chinatown street corner shortly after 4 a.m. March 28, 2009.
Pasene had argued with Peneueta earlier and returned with Rye in a blue Buick Regal sedan, according to court records.
Two other men affiliated with the San Francisco group, Cedro Muna and Antonius Toloai, were arrested with Pasene the day before the murder in a drug case.
Toloai and Muna disappeared in 2010 and warrants for their arrests have been outstanding since then.
According to court records, Muna was the registered owner of the Buick Regal until just days before the
Peneueta murder, when ownership was transferred to a mentally handicapped woman.
The woman, who was incapable of driving a car, later told police that men she didn’t know took her to the downtown Satellite City Hall office where they made her sign papers she couldn’t understand.
The burned-out shell of the car was later found near Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore.