Toeava brothers and 3 former cops charged in alleged TCF drug op
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Five men are in custody with bail set at $20,000 each for their alleged involvement in a drug operation uncovered at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) late last year.
Former DPS officers Jimmy Stanley, Leasi Neueli, Faavae Papatu, and brothers Spencer and Vincent Toeava made their initial appearances in District Court last Friday.
(Samoa News points out that co-defendant Vincent Toeava, a former DHSS employee, is in custody, unable to post a $450,000 bond for his role in the food stamp fraud case that came to light a year ago. In that matter, Toeava is facing 19 criminal charges, carrying a maximum jail term of up to 193 years.)
According to the criminal complaint, cops were called to the TCF last October after a corrections officer found "two small clear plastic cut-up straws" containing a white crystalline substance that was allegedly passed from Toeava to a female inmate, Meriko Lomu, inside a jar of hair gel.
The jar was alleged to have been given to an unsuspecting male cop by Toeava, with the request to have it delivered to Lomu. The male cop then passed the jar over to a female cop, who gave it to Lomu.
(Lomu appeared before Chief Justice Michael Kruse last week where she pled guilty to drug possession with intent to distribute — both marijuana and methamphetamine — in two separate cases. She is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 8th.)
Samoa News points out that the two cops who delivered the gel are not being charged, as they were not aware of the contraband inside.
A shakedown of Toeava's cell — which was witnessed by Toeava and his cell mates — uncovered a wallet that allegedly contained "a medium size clear plastic ziplock baggie". The criminal complaint notes that one of the packages found, contained about 2.1 grams of a white crystalline substance that appeared to be meth.
Another medium size clear plastic ziplock baggie containing 7 small clear plastic straws also containing a white crystalline substance — weighing about 1.3 grams — was also discovered inside the wallet.
The 7 plastic straws, according to the lead investigator, were "visually identical" to the ones found earlier in the jar of hair gel — that was allegedly passed from Toeava to Lomu — and is what sparked the investigation.
Also discovered in Toeava's cell were "cigarettes of green leafy substances" along with $354 cash. Three smart phones were also found. One is believed to belong to Toeava as according to police, the screensaver features Toeava's wife and the contact list includes the names of his relatives.
During the shakedown, the phone believed to be Toeava's rang from multiple calls. A police officer answered one of the calls and that's when a male voice on the other end said, "Vince, it's Jimmy. It's Stanley." (A former cop, and one of the co-defendants in this case).
Nearing the end of the search, according to the criminal complaint, the same phone continued to ring. The cop who stepped out to answer it said he could hear a dog barking in the background. At the same time, he could hear the same barking noises coming from the other end of the TCF compound.
The male voice on the line allegedly said, "Hey Vince, it's Rudolph. Do I give the stuff to this guy?" (Rudolph is an inmate at the TCF).
Following the shakedown, according to police, an inmate whispered to one of the cops, saying that everything they found belonged to him.
The shakedown of inmate Lomu's cell uncovered the same jar of hair gel that was delivered to her earlier that night. Also found in Lomu's cell was a white foam cup with gel residue. It appeared that the contents of the gel container had been poured into the foam cup.
According to the criminal complaint, when police tried to interview Toeava, the defendant refused to talk, saying he wanted to speak with his attorney first.
Police were however tipped off.
According to what investigators were told, a delivery of "ice" (about 4.536 grams) — already packaged — and about an ounce of weed, were delivered to Toeava the day before.
(Although identified in the criminal complaint, the name of Toeava's alleged supplier is being withheld by Samoa News until formal charges against him are filed).
Police were told by a witness that Corrections Officers Jimmy Stanley, Faavae Papatu, and Leasi Neueli along with Toeava's brother Spencer "made drug runs and drop offs" for Toeava from the supplier.
Toeava is alleged to have paid Stanley and Neueli $50 cash and $50 worth of "ice" for their role, while Papatu was allegedly given a "marijuana cigarette every time he came into work."
In addition to the three former cops, two other inmates — Ryan Pite and Rudolph Salisa — are alleged to be running drugs for Toeava at the TCF.
In her statement to investigators, the female cop who gave the jar of hair gel to Lomu said that on the day of the incident, her male counterpart was given $20 by inmate Lomu for Toeava. The male cop gave Toeava the money. Later on, Toeava approached the same male cop and asked if he could deliver a jar of hair gel to inmate Lomu. The male cop passed the jar along to a female cop who was guarding the female cells that night and told her to deliver it to Lomu.
The female guard said that while she was monitoring the dispatch table, she got a call from Toeava — who claimed to be using a cadet's phone — asking if she had delivered the gel to Lomu and she said no. He then asked if she could drop it off and she said "ok."
Moments later, according to the criminal complaint, another inmate approached the female cop — inquiring about the jar of hair gel. The cop told the inmate that it was intended for Lomu, from Toeava. The inmate then opened the jar, in the presence of the female guard, and informed her "that there was a small cut straw inside."
The two searched through the jar and found a second straw.
Because the jar was handed to her by a superior, the female guard "panicked", according to the criminal complaint. She then wrapped both straws in a napkin and put it in her pocket.
She delivered the jar to Lomu, who was expecting it; and immediately afterwards, she informed one of her superiors of what she discovered.
According to Lomu's statement to police, on October 13, 2018, during a family visitation, she asked Toeava if he had any drugs for her and he allegedly said yes. Four days later, Lomu allegedly gave one of the guards $30 to give Toeava, saying she was paying her boyfriend's debt to Toeava. Later that same day, a jar of hair gel was delivered to her but when she poured the contents into a foam cup to look for illegal drugs, she found nothing.
Samoa News will report in tomorrow's edition, further details of this case.