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Samoan woman sentenced to five years for cocaine distribution

fili@samoanews.com

A Samoan woman accused by federal prosecutors of distributing cocaine to Samoan drug dealers in Hawaii, was last week sentenced by the federal court in Honolulu to five years in prison, but remains out on bail to self surrender next January.

Prosecutors case against Sulu Lefiti, aka ‘Pinky’, stems from a drug case involving a Samoan male, Joshua Lauama Jr., who was sentenced earlier this year by the federal court in Honolulu and is currently serving his jail term.

Lefiti was charged in September 2010 by a federal grand jury in Honolulu with two counts “as an aider and abettor, of knowingly and intentionally distributing in excess of 28 grams a mixture or substance which contains cocaine base.” She, however, was not arrested until sometime in March this year in California. She was returned to Honolulu where she entered a not guilty plea and trial was set for Aug. 21 this year. 

Prior to trial, both sides reached a plea agreement where Lefiti pled guilty to only one count as an aider and abettor in a drug transaction while the other count was dismissed.

Lefiti’s defense attorney could not be reached over the weekend for comment, but court documents made public last Friday afternoon state that U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright handed down the sentence last week Tuesday.

Lefiti was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment followed by four years of supervised release, according to court documents, which also state that the defendant will self surrender by 2p.m. on Jan. 8, 2013 to the federal jail in Honolulu to start serving her jail time.

Under the plea agreement, Lefiti admitted that around February of 2010 a cooperating individual for the Honolulu Police Department Crime Reduction Unit had purchased 45.9 grams of “crack cocaine” for $3,000 from Lauama at the parking lot of a store at Chinatown, Honolulu. Prior to the purchase, Lefiti had provided the 45.9 grams of cocaine to Lauama to sell.

A month later, the same cooperating individual spent $1,500 to purchase 23.4 grams of cocaine from Lauama, who received it from Lefiti to sell, according to the plea agreement.

The defendant’s sentencing memorandum filed early this month with the court gave a hint as to why the defendant ended up pleading guilty just before trial. it states that three weeks before trial, the new prosecutor for this case presented the defense with a “measurable amount of discovery” but didn’t elaborate further.

“Once it became clear that the government had a strong case, I was able to discuss with my client the facts the government was going to offer. Ms. Lefiti decided to enter her guilty plea,” said defense attorney Patrick A. Swillinger, in the defendant’s sentencing memorandum.

Swillinger also requested that his client serve any jail term at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif., which is a low-security facility housing female prisoners.

Seabright’s sentencing order recommends that the defendant be placed at the Dublin federal facility and that she participate in educational and vocational programs.

Court documents prosecutors filed in July this year in this case state that in 2008 the defendant was present “in the Chinatown area of Honolulu and announced her ability to provide any type of drugs to customers”

The “defendant routinely distributed cocaine to several Samoan drug dealers in the Chinatown area and to dealers in Kuhio Park Terrace” according to those documents.

(Kuhio Park Terrace is a public housing facility in Honolulu and home to many Samoan families).

“The defendant was selling mostly cocaine, both powder and ‘crack’. The defendant sold cocaine ranging from ounces of ‘crack’ to kilogram quantities of powder cocaine,” prosecution further alleges.

Prosecutors also claimed that Lefiti sold kilogram quantities of powder cocaine from her residence in Waianae on Oahu in December 2009 for $26,000 per kilogram. Court documents went on to cite information out of California where Lefiti was allegedly involved in drug transactions.

The government planned to use these and other pieces of evidence as well as witnesses if the case had gone to trial.

However, letters of character reference asking Seabright for leniency appear to show that Lefiti has recently changed the course of her life for the better. For example, three letters— including one from a church pastor—state that the defendant is an active member of the South San Francisco Samoan Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Another letter shows that she was attending cosmetology school prior to being taken to Honolulu to be charged. She attended the Milan School of Cosmetology from January 2011 to February 2012 and the school’s dean of education says Sulu “is very talented and will go far in this business” and that the school was looking forward to her “re-entering the field of cosmetology.”

According to the defense, when Lefiti learned that an indictment was handed down in Honolulu and an arrest warrant was issued, she surrendered to authorities in San Francisco.



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