Drug bust nets two after informant (CI) sets up “controlled buys”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Two men were arrested and are now being charge for violating local drug laws when armed detectives of the Vice and Narcotics Unit and CID unit executed a search warrant to a Fagaima home last week and discovered drugs, drug paraphernalia and a huge amount of cash.
The two men, Tuaoloina Solofa and Zacharymelven Darius Iopu made their initial appearance in District Court last week.
Each is being charged with four counts including one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth); one count of unlawful possession of meth with the intent to distribute; one count of unlawful possession of marijuana; and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute; all felonies.
Bail for each defendant is set at $40,000.
Preliminary examination is scheduled for this week.
In the third week of July 2021, detectives from the DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit (VNU) met with a confidential informant (CI) who gave the following statement.
The CI told detectives that when he was doing drugs, he would sometimes buy drugs, “meth” from a man name “STEIN”. Stein is the calling name for Tuaoloina Solofa, the defendant in this case.
Solofa would drive around in his silver 4Runner vehicle and allegedly sell drugs to his usual customers by the side of the road or sometimes form his residence in Fagaima.
Solofa sometimes drives an orange Toyota Tacoma registered to another person. The CI added that he met up with Solofa driving the orange vehicle.
According to the CI, Solofa usually reloads his drug supply from a drug dealer in Nu’uuli and now he also has his own shipment (meth) from the States allegedly using the Post Office or a container vessel for shipping.
The CI told investigators that Solofa would only sell his products to dealers, like $1,000 for one ounce, or two ounces for $2,000 and he is able to put together up to five ounces. However, Solofa also had people working for him as sellers to distribute cut up straws of meth for $25 apiece.
The CI told investigators that Solofa’s right hand man is a man by the name of Zacharymelven Darius Iopu, a.k.a “VJ” (co-defendant in this matter), who would sometimes drive the orange truck to deliver drugs to people. At one point the CI went to Solofa’s home in Fagaima to buy drugs, a male individual (his name also mentioned in the affidavit) was there selling and sold him one cut up straw containing crystalline substance for $25.
After receiving information from the CI, investigators moved to set up a controlled buy.
A few weeks later, a controlled buy was executed by the VNU using the same CI who provided reliable intel concerning the drug activities conducted by Solofa. The CI was picked up from a prearranged area and was searched for the presence of any drugs and money — nothing was found. The CI was provided $40 US currency for the buy and made his way to Fagaima at a predetermined destination to meet up with Solofa.
According to the CI, he went over to Solofa’s home and bought one cut up straw from Solofa, and on his was back out to the main road, the CI was stopped by VJ and another male individual. VJ and the other individual asked the CI where he was going, to which the CI responded that he went to see Solofa for personal reasons.
The male individual who was with VJ then asked the CI if he wants to buy a straw, to which the CI responded that he had already bought one from Solofa. The CI added that VJ told him that the next time he wants to buy he can always stop by at the umu (Samoan kitchen) situated about 20 yards from Solofa’s home in Tafuna to buy form them because the stuff they’re selling is provided by Solofa.
After the controlled buy was conducted, investigators proceeded to follow the CI to a predetermined meeting spot. Upon arrival the CI submitted to a thorough search of his person and vehicle by investigators for contraband, money and additional drugs, none were found.
After the search, the CI surrendered a yellow cut up straw containing a white crystalline substance appearing to be meth. The CI added that he bought it from “Stein” a.k.a Tuaoloina Solofa in Fagaima at his home of residence, and also got $15 change.
The white crystalline substance obtained by CI was tested utilizing the field test kit by a police captain. The test of the white crystalline substance inside the cut up straw yielded positive for meth. All evidence was then inventoried and turned into the evidence room for safe keeping.
Three other controlled buys were conducted on the fourth week of July of this year using the same CI.
According to the government’s case, the second controlled buy was conducted when the CI made a phone call to Solofa asking to buy a straw. Investigators provided $30 US currency to the CI for the buy and he immediately made his way to a predetermined destination to meet up with Solofa.
Investigators and the CI prepared for the buy and investigators set up a surveillance at the exact location where the controlled buy was set up and about an hour later, a silver 4Runner pulled up and met with the CI. The CI entered the silver 4Runner and about five minutes later the CI exited the vehicle and the silver vehicle left the parking lot.
The CI handed over to investigators a yellow cut up straw containing a white crystalline substance he bought from Stein, a.k.a Solofa. According to the CI, there was another person in Solofa’s vehicle with him. He was VJ.
The third controlled buy was conducted during the fourth week of July using the same CI. The CI contacted Solofa via his cell phone and requested to buy a straw containing meth and Solofa told him to come to the ‘umu’ saying the guys were over there waiting for him.
Investigators put together the same plan as in the previous controlled buy. Investigators also monitored the whole process until it was over, and the CI handed investigators a yellow cut up straw containing meth.
The fourth controlled buy was conducted during the third week of October using the same process. Upon return to investigators the CI handed over a yellow cut up straw containing meth, telling them that he obtained the cut up straw from Solofa.
The CI also offered other information which helped investigators with their case. According to the CI, Solofa sometimes switches the license plates on the orange vehicle registered to C.D.R (the person is named in the affidavit) from license plate 992E to 990E. According to OMV records, license plate 990E was issued to a person by the name of V.L (the person is named in the affidavit) for a red 2008 Utility Ford.
The CI further informed investigators that Solofa sold meth out of a black GMC Acadia license plate 076F which is registered under the name of T.T (the person is named in the affidavit) of Nu’uuli. Solofa also sometimes uses a black GMC pickup truck license 613F to sell meth, according to the CI.
On Nov. 2, 2021 around 2:30p.m, detectives of the VNU and CID unit executed a search warrant on Solofa and the vehicle involved in the warrant.
Upon arrival at Solofa’s residence, a copy of the search warrant was presented to Solofa’s wife. VNU conducted a search of the residence and umu while other detectives stayed with Solofa. Solofa was asked if there was anything inside the safe in the backseat of the 4Runner, to which he replied that the safe does not work anymore and that his wife instructed him to go find a place to dispose of the inoperable safe.
Investigators searched two vehicles (a GMC truck and GMC Acadia) parked in the garage and no drugs or paraphernalia was found inside the GMC truck, however a small white backpack containing $1,998 was found in the Acadia and was later confiscated. According to Solofa’s wife who was present during the search, the white backpack belonged to her husband, Solofa.
Two other male individuals were seen at the scene during the search. Another was inside the umu while the other male individual by the name of Zacharymelven Iopu was observed inside the residence. Neither drug paraphernalia nor narcotics were found on Iopu.
Three male individuals were taken into the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) for further investigation. They were Solofa, Iopu and another male who was later released.
At the TPS, Solofa was asked again about the safe that was inside his vehicle if he could open it. Solofa replied that the safe does not work and cannot be opened anymore.
Investigators later opened the safe and allegedly found inside: 2 medium sized ziploc baggies containing crystalline substance still in rock form; a 16in x 10.5in plastic bag containing leafy substance (1/4 full); 8 hand rolled cigarette joints containing leafy substance; 5 digital scales; a 7in x 7in ziploc bag containing multiple empty cutup straws (1/2 full); 6 medium sized baggies with white residue, a plastic box filled with colored flexible drinking straws; a glass pipe commonly used to smoke marijuana; 3 lighters; 2 scissors and $11,555 cash.
Solofa admitted to investigators that the contents found inside the safe belonged to him. A police captain tested the white crystalline substance and the leafy substance found inside the safe utilizing a field test kit. The field test yield positive results for meth and THC, the active compound in marijuana.
Solofa was Mirandized and he said he understood his rights and refused to make a statement.
Co-defendant, Iopu on the other hand agreed to make a statement after he was Mirandized. According to Iopu, Solofa gave him meth and marijuana to drop off at a store by Fagaima road five times.
Both suspects were transported to the Territorial Correctional Facility where they were booked and confined.