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Latest drug bust nets meth allegedly bought from Le Aute

Drug defendant Marty Tanielu outside of the District Court last Wednesday, where he made his initial appearance on two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine.  [photo: AF]

A man with two bench warrants issued by the District Court for failure to appear for two separate cases was arrested for alleged possession of methamphetamine last Wednesday, when the vehicle he was driving was stopped by detectives from the DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit in front of a store in Tafuna.

Marty Tanielu is charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine — a felony — punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five or more than ten years, and a fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $20,000, or both.

Tanielu made his initial appearance before District Court Judge Pro-Temp, Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde last Friday. He is being represented by Assistant Public Defender Ryan Nelson while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General, Woodrow Pengelly.

During court proceedings, Tanielu’s attorney requested a bail reduction to $2,500 from the initial amount of $10,000 that was set by the Court.

Nelson argued that although his client is being charged with two criminal counts, based on the court affidavit, the two charges have similar elements, and therefore his client should be charged with one criminal count instead of two.

He further argued that his client is not a flight risk, that he has no intention of leaving the territory and his family. The government opposed the defense motion for a bail reduction. Pengelly argued that $10,000 is a reasonable bail amount, based on the quantity of drugs that police allegedly found in the defendant’s possession.

After reviewing both arguments, Tauiliili-Langkilde ordered that Tanielu’s bail be reduced to $5,000 — a cash bond, subject to the following conditions: He is not to possess any illegal drugs or consume any alcoholic beverages. He is also ordered to submit himself to random testing and he is not to have any direct or indirect contact with the government’s witness.

According to the government's case, it was 11:10 a.m on Nov. 22, 2017 that a detective from the Vice & Narcotics Unit saw the defendant’s vehicle pulling into the parking lot of a store in Tafuna. The defendant has two outstanding bench warrant from the District Court for failing to appear on two separate cases.

The detective, who recognized Tanielu as the driver of the vehicle, parked his police unit close to the rear of the defendant’s vehicle, before stepping outside to make contact with him, where he notified Tanielu of the bench warrants.

Before the defendant was placed inside the police unit, he was patted down for weapons. Prior to this, Tanielu removed items from his pants pocket and placed it on the police vehicle. During the pat down, another police officer observed a pouch which held a glass pipe that contained a crystalline substance believed to be methamphetamine.

Other items that were pulled out from the defendant’s pocket included a pack of cigarettes, a cell phone, and $9.00.

His vehicle was searched for contraband at the scene, and police discovered paraphernalia including cut up straws.

Tanielu and another man who was inside the vehicle when it was pulled over, were transported to the Tafuna Sub-station.

When questioned by police, the defendant said he understood his rights and he refused to make a statement.

While preparing a property report on the evidence found on the defendant, the investigating officer found a cut up straw about an inch long, with both sides sealed, containing a crystalline substance inside the plastic cover of the cigarettes. The substance tested positive for methamphetamine.

When confronted by police about the cut up straw, Tanielu said, "I forgot I still had that in my cigarettes.”

The passenger of the vehicle Tanielu was driving was also interviewed by police and he agreed to provide a written statement.

According to the witness, the previous night, Nov. 21, 2017, at about 9 p.m., Tanielu contacted him to see if he wanted to buy meth, and he said yes.

The witness said Tanielu and another male picked him up and they were on their way to buy meth. He said not long after they pulled on to a dirt road, they were met by three males and he saw Tanielu give one of the  guys money in exchange for a bag of ice.

Before they left the area, according to the witness, Tanielu loaded the pipe with meth and they took turns smoking it. Afterwards, Tanielu dropped him off at home.

The following day, Nov. 22nd, at about 5:00 a.m, the witness told police that his vehicle broke down in Faganeanea, and he contacted Tanielu for help.

He said Tanielu came and towed his vehicle to Malaeloa and on their way back, he and Tanielu went to the Aute and waited on the same dirt road where they made a previous drug transaction the night before.

Three males again walked up to their vehicle and sold them meth.

The witness said after they made their buy, he and Tanielu went to Malaeloa to feed his pigs and afterwards, they were on the road again.

It was when they drove past Lions Park that their vehicle was stopped by police.

Tanielu remains in custody, unable to post bond. His preliminary examination is set for tomorrow in the District Court.