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Moniz named Officer of the Year, Vares is Firefighter of the Year for East Hawaii


Fire Prevention Inspector Kyle Vares and Vice Officer Kelly Moniz display plaques from the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi.

Fire Prevention Inspector Kyle Vares and Vice Officer Kelly Moniz display plaques from the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi.

The Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi recognized Officer Kelly Moniz as “Officer of the Year” and Kyle Vares as “Fire Fighter of the Year” in a dinner ceremony Thursday evening (March 19).

Moniz, a 10-year veteran of the Police Department, is assigned to the Area I Vice Section in Hilo. Vares joined the Fire Department in 2008 and is a Fire Prevention Inspector in East Hawai‘i.

During a ceremony at Nani Mau Gardens, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi presented certificates of commendation from his office and called Moniz and Vares “wonderful examples of leaders of our community.” Each honoree also received a plaque from the Aloha Exchange Club, a gift basket of donated items from local businesses and certificates of commendation from the governor’s office, the State House, the State Senate and the Hawaiʻi County Council.

Moniz’s award was for a two-year investigation that led to the arrest and indictments of high-level drug traffickers responsible for distributing large quantities of “ice” to Hawaii users.

The investigation began in May 2012, when an individual arrested for possessing a small amount of crystal methamphetamine cooperated with law enforcement. Over the next several months, Moniz was able to identify two larger suppliers, including one who dealt in multi-ounce-to-pound quantities of the drug.

While Moniz was involved in a four-month investigation into that larger supplier, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, consisting of Las Vegas police officers and federal special agents from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, contacted the Hawaii Police Department about a separate investigation it was conducting in Las Vegas. In that case, the supplier Officer Moniz was investigating in Hawai‘i was flying to Las Vegas to pick up large quantities of crystal meth. The teams combined efforts and planned an operation for the next meeting between the two suppliers. Members of Hawaii’s task force followed the suspect and two other men to Las Vegas, where all three were arrested after they met with the supplier from Las Vegas.

Search Warrants obtained by the Las Vegas task force were served, leading to the recovery of 4.7 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 10 pounds of liquid crystal methamphetamine, 4 ounces of heroin and $53,000 cash for forfeiture. The investigation revealed that over the previous couple of years, the man from Hawai‘i had flown to Las Vegas monthly to pick up multiple pounds of crystal meth.

All three suspects are being held at the federal detention center while awaiting trail in federal court.

Moniz thanked the Exchange Club for the honor and congratulated Vares for his award. Stressing that the meth distribution investigation was all part of a team effort, Moniz thanked members from partnership agencies, his supervisors, and other current and former Vice officers for the role they all played. “Since joining the Police Department, the only thing I really wanted to do was work in Vice,” he said. Moniz also acknowledged the support of his family. “Thank you very much,” he told them. “I love you.”

Assistant Police Chief Henry Tavares thanked Vares for his hard work and congratulated him for earning the award. Tavares, who worked in Vice for eight years, agreed that teamwork is critical in vice operations. “They can’t do one single thing without the help of their unit,” he said, and then invited other members of Vice, the FBI and the ATF to come on stage to congratulate Moniz.

Fire Inspector Vares was honored for his “exuberant positive attitude” while working with the public to prevent fires. He is considered instrumental with the Fire Department’s role in reviewing construction documents for Fire Code compliance, fire investigations and site inspections to assure the safety of occupants in businesses and schools.

When he was promoted to Fire Prevention Inspector I in August 2013, Vares was tasked with a community program to assist in the installation of smoke detectors in the homes of the elderly. Under his leadership and commitment, he partnered with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union. Collaboratively they installed smoke detectors in about 75 East Hawai‘i homes.

In accepting his award, Vares said, “I want to start by saying I want to be just like Kelly when I grow up.” He thanked the Aloha Exchange Club for honoring him, his coworkers and supervisors for encouraging him, his friends and family for supporting him, and Fire Chief Darren Rosario for recognizing his bureau, which he said is not a part of the Fire Department that gets glamorized in movies. “I find it a blessing to work in the Fire Prevention Bureau,” he said.

Chief Rosario described Vares as an employee who “works from the heart” with an attitude that conveys that he’s happy to be there. “Everything he does for the Fire Department, he does for the right reason,” Rosario said, adding he is proud to be the man’s chief.

The “Officer of the Year” and “Fire Fighter of the Year” awards are projects of the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi.

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