Mail waits to be processed at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Dec. 12, 2017.

Mail waits to be processed at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Dec. 12, 2017. (Kelcey Seymour/U.S. Marine Corps)

NAHA, Okinawa — A Japanese appeals court has upheld the drug-smuggling conviction of a ringleader who funneled cocaine and cannabis into Japan through the U.S. military postal system on Okinawa.

A three-judge panel from the Fukuoka High Court on Tuesday dismissed claims by Satoshi Kominami, 30, that he did not know the seized packages held narcotics. He has 14 days to appeal to the Japan Supreme Court.

Kominami, who is unemployed and has no fixed address, was sentenced Sept. 30 in Naha District Court to 13 years in prison and fined about $35,000 for organizing the importation of approximately 5 pounds of cocaine, a half-gallon of cannabis liquid and nearly 4 ounces of dried cannabis flower.

Mislabeling customs forms was “done to avoid inspections,” Presiding Judge Yutaka Taniguchi said in court on Tuesday. “It is easy to conclude that the defendant, who oversaw and controlled all these shipments, was aware of the illegal drugs.”

Kominami, whom police mistakenly referred to as “Ken” after his sentencing last year, was arrested in October 2021 after U.S. military authorities alerted Japanese police to suspected drug-smuggling. In all, 10 people were arrested in connection with the alleged ring.

Government spokespeople in Japan customarily speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

The investigation snared one Marine and a Marine Corps civilian employee who were sentenced to prison in separate cases in Naha in late 2021 and early 2022.

Cpl. Nicholas Garner received two years in prison and an approximately $4,000 fine in February 2022 on a conviction of receiving a half-gallon of cannabis liquid and nearly a quarter-pound of dried cannabis flower by mail at Camp Foster.

Civilian employee Dominique Williams was sentenced in December 2021 to four years in prison and fined approximately $9,000 for receiving more than 4 pounds of cocaine at both Camp Kinser and Foster.

Kominami was charged with violating Japan’s Narcotics Control Law, the Cannabis Control Act, the Stimulant Control Law and the Customs Act. He pleaded not guilty at trial in June.

At sentencing, Naha District Court Judge Hironobu Ono said evidence showed Kominami led the ring and gave instructions to unnamed senders in the United States and the receivers on Okinawa, the Okinawa Times reported Oct. 4.

In court Tuesday, Taniguchi detailed the evidence against Kominami, including his instructions to the drug recipients, the mislabeling of customs forms, large payments for the shipments and that he tried to cancel a shipment to Garner, who had trouble collecting it. He also kept some of the drugs in a locked safe.

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Keishi Koja is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in August 2022. He studied International Communication at the University of Okinawa and previously worked in education.
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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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