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Former customs agent sentenced in airport marijuana bust

Chief Justice Michael Kruse [SN file photo]

The 22-year-old customs agent that was convicted of importing a controlled substance, to wit; marijuana into the territory in March of last year was ordered to serve an imprisonment term of 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility and pay a fine of $5,000.

During Titifalaula Siaumau’s sentencing yesterday, Chief Justice Michael Kruse took the time to explain in detail about the defendant’s case while members of his family including his father and his grandmother and church members were listening.

According to the Chief Justice, Titifalaula Siaumau was initially charged with the offense of importing of a controlled substance into the territory, a class D felony, punishable by an imprisonment term of up to 5 years and or a fine of up to $5,000.

He was also charged separately of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance — marijuana in the territory, a class B felony, punishable by imprisonment of not less than 5 years and not more than 15 years.

Under a plea agreement, the government agreed to dismiss the more serious class B felony charge, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, and the defendant agreed to pled guilty to a class D felony, the importing of controlled substance into the territory.

Kruse then stated that on Mar. 27, 2017, a package — actually a speaker box — arrived at the Pago Pago International Airport aboard Hawaiian Airlines and was addressed to a Felix Penerosa, an employee of CSL Cargo Services. He further explained how the drugs were found and what the CSL subsequently told customs officers that the package belonged to the defendant, who asked him for his help for mailing a speaker from some of his family members from off-island.

While in custody, the CSL agent told police that he never agreed to being used as an addressee of the package. The government claimed that approximately 5 lbs of marijuana was found inside the speaker.

Before the court announced its sentence, the defense attorney, William R. Olson of the RDA Law Firm called two witnesses to the stand; the defendant’s grandmother and his church Minister.

According to the grandmother’s testimony, her “son” is an obedient boy who loved to attend church activities and youth functions. He does not drink beer nor smoke cigarettes, but she suspects that perhaps this changed in her son’s life when he started to hang out with his new friends.

In a follow up with her statement about her son’s friends, Kruse asked the witness to tell the court who are her son’s friends she was referring to. The witness stated she does not know their names.

In conclusion, she asked the court to release her son so that they can be together as a family.

The defendant’s church Minister also testified to the court that Siaumau is a hardworking young man, who loved to offer his time to help with a lot of church activities including youth functions. He’s a young man whom he never sees smoking or drinking.

In his own words, the defendant apologized to the court for his actions and begged for another chance so that he could go back home and be with his family, his wife and kids, and also to attend his church spiritual activities.

Siaumau said that he had learned a lot from his mistake while he was detained in prison for 119 days.

He assured the court that if he is given another chance, he will do his best to stay away from trouble and focus on his job to take care of his grandmother and family.

Prosecutor Christy Dunn echoed the defense attorney’s request, to sentence the defendant to a probated sentences, and allow him to go back home and seek employment to take care of his family. Olson stated that Siaumau is a productive member of society who does not have a criminal history.

Kruse told both attorneys that if they look at the pre-sentence report, there’s a lot more evidence in there that bothers the court. He did not elaborate on what he meant by that.

Sources told Samoa News that the defendant did explain to the Probation officer who interviewed him everything about the speaker and the drugs that were hidden inside, together with the “names” of the person or persons who own the drugs.

Siaumau was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 5 years and a fine of $5,000. The prison sentence was suspended, and the defendant was placed on probation for 5 years pending serving 20 months detention with no release except for a genuine medical emergency or at the request of the court.

After serving 6 months of detention, the court will entertain a motion for work release provided that the defendant can be gainfully employed.

Kruse told the defendant and his attorney that gainful employment does not include family farming nor employment with any businesses associated with his family. He can be employed by the government but not by Customs or Homeland Security.

He was also ordered to pay a fine of $5,000, attend and complete substance abuse counseling, and he must also agree to random testing.

Lastly, Kruse stated that Siaumau had initially posted a cash bond of $10,000 and failed to show up at an earlier hearing.

After that, the court issued a bench warrant, which resulted in his arrest, and it was at that same time his prior attorney moved to withdraw.

According to Kruse, the court is mandated to forfeit bond, however the court will entertain any motion within 10 days, and if nothing is filed, the $10,000 cash bond will be forfeited to the government.