Alleged PX thieves — who are Army Reservists — now facing drug charges as well
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Police arrested two men last week on allegations of stealing items from The Troop store (PX), as well as illegal drug possession. The drugs were discovered during a body search of one of the men and in the rental car they were using.
Both men are identified as members of the US Army Reserve (Infantry) in American Samoa.
Herman Tatupu and Anthony Sanft made their initial appearance in District Court last Friday. Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey, while Assistant Public Defender Bob Stuart is representing both defendants
Tatupu and Sanft are each charged by the government in two separate cases.
In the first case, Tatupu and Sanft are each charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), a felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five nor more than ten years and a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $20,000, or both.
In the second case, each defendant is charged with stealing, a class C felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years, a $5,000 fine, or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment.
District Court Judge Pro Tem, Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde established bond for the two defendants in each case at $5,000 — meaning a total of $10,000 for each men.
Tauiliili-Langkilde denied the defense’s motion to reduce bail of $5,000 for Tatupu and Sanft in each of their cases.
Stuart told the court that his clients are not a flight risk, they have strong family ties here in American Samoa, and they are also members of the community. He said the charges against his two clients are just allegations, and this is the first time they have been arrested and charged in criminal matters.
The government’s attorney on the other hand strong opposed the defense’s motion, saying that the allegations against the two defendants are serious and the government needs to make sure that these two defendants will continue to be on island while their cases are still pending in court.
If bonds are posted, both defendants are ordered to remain law abiding, make all court appearances, stay in close contact with their attorney, Mr. Stuart, and stay away from the Troop Store at the Tafuna (PX).
The two defendants were also ordered to surrender their travel documents and shall not leave or attempt to leave the territory until their matter is resolved.
Preliminary hearing (PX) is scheduled of Nov. 25th at 10:00 a.m.
UNLAWFUL POSSESSION CASE
The government claims that on Nov. 12, 2019 (this is changed from typo that said Nov. 21, thank you to our readers for calling this out) around 2:55p.m, police officers arrested Tatupu and Sanft from the Troop Store in Tafuna in a possible stealing case and were transporting them to the Tafuna Substation for further investigation.
A police detective was assigned to investigate the stealing case, however, when illegal drugs were allegedly discovered, a police detective from the DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit was then assigned to investigate the matter.
Upon arrival at the Tafuna Substation, police conducted a body search on Tatupu in which, police discovered a glass pipe inside a small red bag. Also inside the red bag, there was an ATM card and driver’s license both belonging to Tatupu. The white crystalline substance contained inside the glass pipe tested positive for methamphetamine.
It was during that time when Tatupu was warned of his constitutional rights, and he waived the reading of his rights that he said wished to communicate with police.
One hour later, two other police officers from the Tafuna Substation were instructed to conduct an inventory on a vehicle license plate number 536D, which was a rental car belonging to Sanft.
The inventory search was conducted in the presence of Sanft, who claimed that he is responsible for the vehicle because it’s rented under his name and he has had it for about a week.
During the inventory search, a bag of clothing items was found along with some army accessories inside the vehicle. Also discovered was an open box of toothpaste underneath the driver’s seat, and inside the box was another glass pipe contained a white crystalline substance.
Additionally, inside the toothpaste box and the glass pipe, there was a small stamp sized baggie that contained small amounts of white crystalline substance.
The white crystalline substances inside the glass pipe and the small stamp sized baggie were tested and the results returned positive for ice.
At this time, Sanft opted to make a statement to police. He verbally told police that he had the rental vehicle for about a week. However, he does not know to whom the glass pipe and stamped sized baggie belongs. He further stated to police that he has smoked methamphetamine once (about a year ago), but he didn’t like it and stopped immediately. Sanft continued to deny that the glass pipe belonged to him.
A third male individual that was present inside the vehicle when police pulled over the vehicle was also escorted to the Tafuna Substation for questioning. The male individual told police that Sanft picked him up so he could contact his mechanic for help but he had no idea that drugs were involved, or that they were stealing from the Troop Store.