Police busting druggies by executing search warrants on vehicles and persons
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The drivers of two vehicles where police discovered illegal drugs are now charged with violating local drugs laws. Both men have previous convictions for unlawful possession of illegal drugs.
The two men are Nansen Tiliata and Akisa Kapeli and they made their initial appearances in court last month, where they each waived their rights to a preliminary examination.
Tiliata was arrested when police executed a search warrant on a vehicle and on his person, in Nuuuli and also on another of his vehicles and his home. In the case against Kapeli a search warrant was executed on a vehicle in Fagatogo, where police also discovered drugs, and the driver of the vehicle, later identified Kapeli was arrested and is now being charged.
The two defendants appeared in High Court last week for their arraignments where they both entered not guilty pleas to all the charges against them. Pretrial conferences are scheduled for July 17th.
Tiliata, who owns the vehicle where drugs, drug paraphernalia and money were allegedly found after searches of his vehicle and his person, is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine with intent to distribute and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, both class D felonies. His cash bond has been set in the amount of $20,000.
Kapetli, who is the driver of the second vehicle, is charged with one count each of 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. Cash bond for Kapeli is $5,000.
According to the government case, on May 12, 2020 around 11:30a.m police officers executed a search warrant on a black pickup truck parked in front of a store in Nu’uuli.
Police approached the driver of the vehicle, who was later identified as Nansen Tiliata, and informed him about the search warrant and asked him to exit the vehicle. There was also a male individual inside Tiliata’s vehicle, who was instructed to exit the vehicle for a body search. The male individual, who was also named in the affidavit, was let go by police after he was searched and interviewed at the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS). Nothing was found on him during the body search.
The court affidavit states that Tiliata, when asked to exit his vehicle, “Tiliata immediately asked one of the officers if he could help him.” Tiliata was given the standard pat down and detained.
At TPS, Tiliata’s vehicle was searched, where the police officer observed under the passenger seat a black pouch with money and a small stamp-sized baggie containing white crystalline substance along with other items. The police officer pointed to the pouch and asked Tiliata who owns it, Tiliata is said to have smiled and said, “It belongs to the owner of the vehicle.”
Upon retrieval of the items, officers found a large glass pipe containing a thick crystalline substance, 3 small stamp-sized baggies containing crystalline substance, 3 cut up straws containing a crystalline residue, 6 empty baggies in various sizes and $689 USD in cash mainly in $20 dollar bills.
The crystalline substance tested positive for methamphetamine.
Before police officers let go of the male individual who was with Tiliata, investigators questioned him on why he was with Tiliata when police executed the search warrant.
The male individual, who is an electrician, told police that Tiliata picked him up from his home in Vailoa to fix Tiilata mother’s house panel. When he entered Tiliata’s vehicle, he smelled a strong odor of marijuana inside the vehicle. The passenger further told police that he actually saw stuff inside Tiliata’s vehicle. When police asked the passenger what did he see, the passenger replied that it was ice (aisa).
After completing the search of Tiliata’s vehicle, the search then moved to his residence where 7 straws and 3 glass pipes containing methamphetamine were discovered. Another vehicle belonging to Tiliata was also searched, but nothing was found inside. The drugs later were tested, and were positive for methamphetamine.
The passenger is alleged to have told police that before they were approached by police, they had gone to Iliili for Tiliata to deliver methamphetamine and marijuana to another person; and that the person had bought $150 worth of marijuana and meth from Tiliata while they were there.
He also told police that he had seen a lot of methamphetamine, marijuana and a lot of money inside Tiliata’s vehicle and home in Kokoland.
He further stated that every time he went to Tiliata’s home to fix the electricity for Tiliata’s mother’s house, he noticed many vehicles and people coming to Tiliata’s residence. There was a time, according to the passenger’s statement to police, when Tiliata told him not to say anything about people coming to his house to pick up their supplies.
“I asked Tiliata what supply he was talking about, and he smiled and told me that it was meth and marijuana,” the passenger told police.
(Tiliata was convicted for unlawful possession of illegal drugs and prohibited firearms several years ago.)
Around 6:45 p.m. on the same day, a red pickup truck was observed and stopped by police in the Fagatogo area. The driver of the vehicle was later identified as Akisa Kapeli, the defendant in this matter.
Police approached Kapeli and informed him of the search warrant. During a standard body search of Kapeli, a small stamp-sized baggie and a glass pipe containing crystalline substance was discovered in the front right pocket of his pants.
In his statement to police after being informed of his constitutional rights, Kapeli stated he found the pipe containing crystalline substance in front of an Asian at their village, where he picked it up and put it inside his pocket, but the small baggie was given to him by his best friend.
When police asked Kapeli about his friend who allegedly gave him the small baggie containing meth, Kapeli refused to reveal his friend’s name to police. He only told police that it’s been 4 months now that his friend has been supplying him with drugs. Sometimes he borrows drugs to use for himself when he needs some but he pays later when he has money.
Kapeli was sentenced to 5 years probation by the High Court in 2013, after being convicted of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, and was ordered to serve a period of detention of 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
However, the court ordered Kapeli to serve only 13 month of his period of detention, while the remaining period of detention was stayed until further order of the court.