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Bail set at $15K for defendant in aircraft firefighter unit drug bust

American Samoa District Court building
Court affidavit says $1,000 was found in a safe, not $80K as reported by other media outlets


Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A fireman at the Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighter (ARFF) Unit at the Pago Pago International Airport, Derek Sappa, who is facing drug charges, will appear in District Court  Feb. 12th for a preliminary examination.

He was arrested during a raid of the ARFF building two Fridays ago by detectives of the DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit, and he made his initial appearance in District Court last week.

Sappa is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine with  intent to distribute; and one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine - both felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years, a fine up to $20,000 or both for each count.

Bail is set at $15,000


According to the government, it was during the early morning hours of Jan. 24, 2020 that armed detectives executed search warrants for residences, properties, and persons - four individuals - all from Aua village.

The search warrants also included the suspects’ workplace.

It was around 6:30a.m. when detectives executed the search warrant for Sappa, whose  vehicle was pulled over near the Nuuuli intersection to the airport. The vehicle was impounded and taken to the Fagatogo DPS headquarters, driven by a senior detective with Sappa riding in the passenger seat.

Once the vehicle was secured at the DPS central station, Sappa was escorted to his home in Aua and a search of his residence was immediately carried out, as prescribed by the  warrant.

The search netted several empty baggies and a gun cleaning kit with several .22 caliber ammunition.


A few hours later, on the same date, the search was carried over to the suspect’s place of employment at the ARFF building, where police allegedly found a small container with empty cut-up straws and several baggies.

During the search, Sappa requested to speak with a DPS captain regarding a special matter. The request was granted and the search came to a halt. Sappa informed the police captain that he had drugs and cash in a small safe inside the Chief’s room.

The search resumed and confirmed what Sappa told the police captain. When asked about the key to the safe, Sappa told detectives the key was in his black back bag in his vehicle that was at the police headquarters in Fagatogo.

The safe was then transported to the DPS central station in Fagatogo.


Once the search of his workplace was complete, Sappa was escorted to the main DPS station where a search of his vehicle was carried out.

According to the government, a search of Sappa’s vehicle came up empty. Police only found a wallet containing his ID, and cash, that were later released to his wife. Also found was a black bag with several keys and other personal items such as clothing and cologne.

During the vehicle search, Sappa began feeling unwell, he complained of shortness of breath. EMS was notified and Sappa was transported to the LBJ for treatment.

Afterwards, Sappa and his wife walked into the police headquarters and met with investigators for an interview. Sappa was asked for the key to the small safe that was found at the ARFF building and Sappa replied that he only has a key to his room, and the safe is not his.

Detectives used the key that was found in Sappa’s black bag to open the small safe which contained large quantity of a white crystalline substance (later tested positive for meth) and about $1,000 cash. Also allegedly found was a small digital scale (typically used to weigh meth for sale) and .22 caliber ammunition.

When asked about the drugs, Sappa remained silent and refused to make a statement.

Later in the afternoon of the same date, search warrants were executed for three other males. During the search on these individuals and their vehicles, nothing was found.

One of them volunteered and is willing to cooperate with authorities in their investigation. In his statement, the witness said he is related to the suspect and sometimes goes over to his house to help care for an elderly lady. When at Sappa’s home, the witness said Sappa would tell him to deliver drugs to a customer waiting at the bus stop area.