Court finds probable cause in two separate drug cases — Samatua Logoai and Daisy Mareko
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Two cases against two men accused of violating local drug laws are now in High Court, after District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea found probable cause, following a preliminary examination (PX) last week for each man.
Samatua Logoai is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a felony; while Daisy Mareko is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine; one count of unlawful possession of firearms, both felonies; and one count of unlawful possession of ammunition, a class A misdemeanor.
Logoai, represented by private attorney Marcellus T. Uiagalelei has been released on a $5,000 surety bond while Mareko - represented by Assistant Public Defender Bob Stuart - remains in custody at the TCF, unable to post a $20,000 surety bond.
During the PX, the government called two witnesses; Det. Sgt. Abel Penitusi for Logoai’s case and Det. Samantha Lam Yuen for Mareko’s case.
According to the government’s witness, on July 12, 2019 cops entered the Siaumau family compound in Petesa to execute a search warrant for Thomas Siaumau, and an arrest warrant for Thomas’s brother, Elliott Siaumau.
When they pulled up, cops observed four men standing in a corner behind the Siaumau mechanic shop. They were: Logoai; Elliott Siaumau Jr; Eddieboy Va’avale; and Toenuti Oloaga.
The group looked like they were in the middle of a meeting that was interrupted — as they attempted to hide themselves from law enforcement. Cops stormed the area and instructed the men to be still. According to the government, all four men seemed nervous, especially Elliott and Va’avale.
All four men were escorted to the Tafuna Substation for questioning.
A black truck that was at the Siaumau compound that day was later identified as Logoai’s. The vehicle was driven by Logoai, accompanied by former Det. Justin Thomsen to the Tafuna Substation.
At the station, Thomsen asked Logoai if there was anything illegal in the car. Logoai grabbed something from the side door and gave it to Thomsen, who gave it to his superior. It was two ‘simoi’-size baggies containing a clear crystalline substance appearing to be meth. Both baggies were tested and the contents yielded positive results for meth.
When questioned by police, Logoai said he was at the Siaumau compound on the day in question, and he got the drugs from Elliott as a down payment for a vehicle they had towed earlier that week. According to Logoai’s statement to police, Siaumau Jr told him the day before the search (July 11th) that each bag was worth $200.
According to the government’s witness, on Nov. 7th at around 7:40 a.m, two officers who were patrolling in Futiga observed a black vehicle (license plate 991C) parked in front of a store in Puapua. (This was allegedly the same vehicle that was involved in a pursuit with police on the morning of Nov. 3rd)
The cops approached the vehicle and made contact with the driver (identified as Faafetai Lefatia Jr). Police told Lefatia why he was being approached - that the vehicle was involved in a “hot pursuit” with police on Nov. 3rd, and they needed to locate the driver.
Lefatia Jr said he did not know who was driving the vehicle that night, saying it wasn’t him. As officers continued their conversation with Lefatia Jr, they observed a red and white vehicle (license plate 7999) pull up and park in front of the laundromat connected to the store where Lefatia Jr’s vehicle was parked.
Officers saw a male exit the vehicle from the passenger side and approach Lefatia Jr’s vehicle. That’s when Lefatia Jr instructed the male (identified as Daisy Mareko) to take the groceries from inside his vehicle (991C) and a black bag that was in the back seat. Mareko did as he was told.
The conversation between Lefatia Jr and Mareko was observed by the two officers. Police asked Lefatia Jr who the black bag belonged to, and Lefatia Jr replied it belonged to Mareko. Lefatia Jr. was escorted to the Tafuna substation for questioning.
Meanwhile, Mareko was observed by motorcycle officers (still at the scene) inside the 7999-vehicle as it entered the highway. He and the driver weren’t wearing their seatbelts so the officers pursued the vehicle, which turned on to the dirt road that leads to Le Aute.
Officers informed both Mareko and the driver about why they were stopped. When asked for identification, Mareko failed to provide any so he was asked to step out of the vehicle. Mareko was asked who the black bag belonged to and he said Faafetai Jr (Lefatia).
When cops asked if they could look inside the bag, Mareko said, “yeah, go ahead.” Once opened, cops observed two guns inside. The two men were immediately detained and back-up was called. The vehicle was impounded and the two men were taken in for questioning.
The bag contained cash, handguns, ammunition, 4 small cut up straws containing a white crystalline substance (which tested positive for meth); a medium sized baggie containing a white crystalline substance (which tested positive for meth); 99 medium sized empty baggies; a phone, and several other items (all noted on property forms).
Lefatia Jr and Mareko refused to speak to police. Lefatia Jr also refused to sign the copy of the arrest warrant. The driver of the vehicle (7999) was also interviewed by police but later released.
In delivering his decision, Patea said that despite strong opposition from the defense, it was clear from the evidence that there is probable cause to bind the two cases over to High Court.
Logoai and Mareko appeared before Chief Justice Michael Kruse this past Monday for arraignment, where they entered ‘not guilty’ pleas to the charges against them. Pretrial conference for both is Jan. 31, 2020.