Another traffic bust: Pair charged in drug case are not new to the courts
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A male driver and a female passenger pulled over by police officers for a seat belt violation last month are now in custody after officers discovered illegal drugs and paraphernalia in the vehicle.
Moreover, the male passenger was the same person allegedly involved in a hot pursuit with police one night prior. However, police were unable to stop the vehicle this male individual allegedly drove, despite the fact that two senior police officers identified the male driver.
When police officers approached the vehicle, they had pulled over for the seat belt violation, they identified the male driver as Filiki Orepa, and the female passenger was identified as Anarita Taulaga — both are not new to the court system.
The government claims that on the afternoon of Sept. 18, 2021, police patrolling in Taputimu and Malaeloa area saw a truck being driven at high speed; and also noted that the driver was clearly not wearing a seat belt.
Cops pulled over the truck in front of a store in Futiga. And, while cops approached the vehicle, the driver of the vehicle, who was later identified as Orepa, had already exited the truck with a black bag in his hand and he attempted to run away from police by crossing to the other side of the road.
Cops instructed the driver to get back inside his vehicle, but he refused and demanded to know why they had stopped the vehicle. However, the matter was resolved calmly, with Orepa getting back inside the vehicle per police instructions while still holding on to the black bag.
A female passenger was sitting in the back seat behind the driver’s seat of the vehicle and was later identified as Anarita Taulaga, the co-defendant in this case.
When asked for his driver’s license, Orepa said he didn’t have it with him. His name was then run through the Office of the Motor Vehicle’s (OMV) system and it turned out that his driver’s license expired two years ago.
When asked why he didn’t renew his driver’s license, Orepa stated that he feared that he might get locked up because he had an outstanding warrant for his arrest 3 years ago for his involvement in a burglary.
(Police had no information that there was a warrant for the arrest of Orepa for his involvement in any burglary case.)
Police also checked the truck’s license plates and discovered that they did not belong to the truck. Both Orepa and Taulaga were then asked to step out of the vehicle.
Orepa was patted down and a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance was found inside his left pants pocket, leading to his immediate arrest.
Cops also searched the black bag and allegedly discovered illegal drugs, namely packaged white crystalline substances and paraphernalia.
A glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance was also discovered in the vehicle between the driver’s and the passenger’s seat.
Taulaga (the female individual) was also patted down and two glass pipes containing white crystalline substance were discovered in her pants pocket, along with two marijuana joints and $410 cash.
Members of the DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit were notified about the illegal drugs, and two detectives were assigned to investigate.
Both Orepa and Taulaga were taken to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) for questioning, and interviewed separately.
During Taulaga’s interview, she allegedly admitted that the two glass pipes containing white crystalline substance discovered in her possession belonged to her.
She also at first allegedly stated that the small black bag containing illegal drugs belonged to her and that she had got the stuff from a close friend and they were on their way to deliver the stuff to another man.
Taulaga mentioned the man’s name to police and the man’s name is also mentioned in the affidavit. (Samoa News is not naming the man due to his not being charged.)
Later, during the interview, she allegedly told investigators that everything that was inside the black bag and the vehicle belonged to Orepa while only the illegal drugs found in her possession belonged to her.
In his written statement to investigators, Orepa stated that a man gave him the drugs to deliver to another man. The man who owns the drugs is his best friend and he was acting as a runner and he gets paid for this job.
On the day in question, his wife and children used their family vehicle to go to a church function, so he decided to call his friend Taulaga to see if she could pick him up to deliver his stuff. Taulaga agreed.
Further, Taulaga gave him the key to the vehicle, and asked him to drive while she (Taulaga) sat in the back seat to listen to music.
Orepa also told investigators that on their way to drop off the stuff, he gave a glass pipe containing methamphetamine (meth) to Taulaga to show his appreciation to her, for responding to his request.
When asked about his involvement in a hot pursuit with police on the previous night where his vehicle did not stop, Orepa denied any involvement in a hot pursuit. He told investigators his wife and children are at a church camp and they have their only family vehicle with them.
Taulaga was questioned by investigators regarding the glass pipe containing meth found in her possession.
According to Taulaga’s story, she confirmed Orepa’s account of her involvement, as well as being shocked when Orepa gave her a glass pipe containing meth as a thank you for helping him.
Taulaga told investigators that she had no idea that there were other illegal drugs with them. However, when police instructed them to pull over, that’s when Orepa handed her a small black bag and told her to get out and run. She said she didn’t know what was inside the bag and noted that the glass pipe found inside the car belonged to Orepa.
She also offered more information to investigators about Orepa’s involvement in selling illegal drugs, pointing out that it’s almost every week that Orepa contacts her to ask if she can pick him up from his residence and drop him at his friend’s house in Vaitogi.
Taulaga gave investigators a clear picture of the location where she always dropped off and picked up Orepa. Every time she picked up Orepa, he would be carrying a black bag with him, she said.
Both defendants made their initial appearances in District Court last month.
Orepa is charged with one count of unlawful possess of meth; one count of unlawful possession of meth with the intent to distribute; one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, all felonies.
Taulaga is charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth, a felony.
Orepa’s bail is set at $20,000, and Taulaga’s at $5,000.
Taulaga was convicted by the High Court on the charge of conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to 5-year probation with the condition that she serve a period of detention of 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF). She was one of the co-defendants involved in a stealing scam at a local supermarket many years ago.
Orepa was previously arrested and charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth, after a police raid of his friend’s house in Vaitogi in December of 2019 while he was also present.
Orepa’s case was bound over in High Court, and he remained in custody unable to post a $30,000 surety bond.
However, in May of last year, Orepa’s case was dismissed after the court granted the government’s motion to dismiss the case against the defendant. The government cited in their motion to dismiss that Orepa was “in the wrong place at the wrong time: when police executed their search warrant at the residence in Vaitogi.