Two men arrested for drugs after separate search warrants executed on same day
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Two men arrested after police officers executed two search warrants last month are now charged with violating local drug laws.
One man was arrested when police executed the search warrant on a vehicle and a home in Malaeimi, while a second search warrant was executed on a vehicle in Nu’uuli, where police also discovered drugs, and the driver of the vehicle was arrested and is now being charged.
The two men are Poulima Ulia and Sefulu Tagaloa and they made their initial appearances before District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea last month, where they waived their constitutional rights to a preliminary examination.
The two defendants appeared in High Court at the beginning of this month for their arraignment where they entered not guilty pleas to all the charges against them. Their first pretrial conference is May 24th.
Ulia, who owns the vehicle where drugs, drug paraphernalia and money were allegedly found inside his vehicle and home in Malaeimi, is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine with intent to distribute and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, both class D felonies. His cash bond has been set in the amount of $25,000.
Tagaloa, who is also on probation, is charged with one count each of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; 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 Tagaloa is $5,000.
According to the government case, on Feb. 16th, 2020 around 11:30a.m police officers executed a search warrant on a white pickup truck parked in front of a store in Malaeimi.
Police approached the driver of the vehicle, who was later identified as Ulia, and informed him about the search warrant and asked him to exit the vehicle. There was also a male individual inside Ulia’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 Substation. Nothing was found on him during the body search.
The court affidavit states that for Ulia, when asked to exit his vehicle, “Ulia immediately asked one of the officers if he could help him.” Ulia was patted down for weapons and detained.
A body search was conducted on Ulia and his vehicle was also searched at the Tafuna Substation.
Again, Ulia asked the police officer if he could help him, as the police officer opened the rear passenger side door of the vehicle, and immediately observed under the passenger side seat a black pouch with money and a white glass bulb along with other items.
The police officer pointed to the bulb and asked Ulia what the object was, Uila stated that it was a pipe and money.
Upon retrieval of the items, officers found a large glass pipe containing a thick crystalline substance, four 3.5-inch plastic baggies containing crystalline substance, one 3-inch orange colored cut up straw containing a crystalline residue, 6 empty baggies in various sizes and $1,289 USD in cash mainly in $20 dollars, bills.
The crystalline substance was tested utilizing a Methamphetamine Reagent field test kit resulting in positive results for methamphetamine.
Before police officers let go of the male individual who was with Ulia inside his vehicle, investigators questioned him on why he was with Ulia when police executed the search warrant.
The male individual, who is a mechanic, told police that Ulia picked him up from his home in Leone to fix Ulia mother’s vehicle. When he entered Ulia’s vehicle, he smelled a strong odor of marijuana inside the vehicle. When he asked Ulia about the strong smell of marijuana, Ulia smiled and said to him, “it’s the stuff for the men who work at the plantation.”
The passenger further told police that he actually saw stuff inside Ulia’s vehicle. When police asked the passenger what did he see, the passenger replied that it was ice (aisa).
After completing the search of Ulia’s vehicle, the search then moved to his residence also in Malaeimi where 12 jumbo straws and 8 glass pipes containing methamphetamine were discovered. Another vehicle belonging to Ulia 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 pulled over by police, they had gone to Iliili for Ulia to deliver methamphetamine to another person; and that the person had bought $200 worth of marijuana from Ulia while they were there.
He also told police that he had seen a lot of methamphetamine, marijuana and a lot of money inside Ulia’s vehicle and home in Malaeimi.
He further stated that every time he went to Ulia’s home to fix Ulia’s mother’s vehicle, he noticed so many vehicles and people coming to Ulia’s residence. There was a time according to the passenger’s statement to police when Ulia told him not to say anything about people coming to his house to pick up their supplies.
“I asked Ulia what supply he was talking about, and he smiled and told me that it was meth and marijuana,” the passenger told police.
(Ulia was convicted for unlawful possession of illegal drugs and prohibited firearms several years ago.)
Around 6:15 p.m. on the same day, a black pickup truck was observed and stopped by police in the Iliili area. The driver of the vehicle was later identified as Tagaloa.
Police approached Tagaloa and informed him about the search warrant. When a physical search was conducted on Tagaloa’s body, a glass pipe and small baggie containing crystalline substance was discovered in the front right pocket of his pants.
In his statement to police after being warned of his constitutional rights, Tagaloa stated he found the pipe containing crystalline substance in front of a laundromat 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 Tagaloa about his friend who allegedly gave him the small baggie containing meth, he replied, “Poulima Ulia”.
He further stated to police that he knew Ulia and that he sells drugs. He stated “that everyone knew it.”
Tagaloa was sentenced to 5 years probation by the High Court in 2016, 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 Tagaloa to serve only 10 month of his period of detention, while the remaining period of detention was stayed until further order of the court.