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Customs agent faces drug charges for 7-pound shipment of weed

[SN file photo]
He tried to take off with the parcel after he was confronted by co-workers

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A Customs agent who allegedly used his relative’s post office box to receive a shipment of marijuana has been slapped with three felony drug charges.

Lagona Tigilau is being charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of methamphetamine, and unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

The marijuana charges stem from an incident that occurred at the Post Office last week, where 7lbs. of weed was found in a box allegedly belonging to Tigilau, but was shipped through the mailbox of a family member, who is a former Customs agent.

He is also being charged with a single count of meth possession after a clear glass pipe containing what appeared to be white crystalline substance — and later tested positive as methamphetamine — was allegedly discovered in his vehicle, when he was apprehended and his vehicle searched by police officers.

Tigilau made his initial appearance yesterday before District Court Judge Fiti Sunia.

His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson said they want to move forward with a preliminary examination (PX) hearing and it is set for tomorrow at 1 p.m.

According to the court affidavit, the DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit was contacted by a Customs K-9 officer regarding a package that Customs canine Benny alerted to during a routine inspection at the Post Office.

The parcel was addressed to former Customs agent Fiatupu Tavai.

The on-duty customs officer inspecting parcels that day was informed of the situation. Tavai had turned up to claim the package which allegedly "contained two large clear bags containing what appeared to be green leafy substances," according to the court affidavit.

It further states that Tavai allegedly told Customs officers that the box belonged to Tigilau, who picked him up and drove him to the Post Office to claim the shipment.

A test of the green leafy substance netted positive results for marijuana.

The court affidavit notes that an on-duty Customs officer told investigators that Tigilau was standing next to Tavai when the contents of the parcel were laid out and Tigilau allegedly attempted to place the bags back into the box and wanted to take off with it.

When told that neither the box nor Tavai could leave the Post Office, Tigilau allegedly admitted that the box was a transit from Apia.

According to the Customs agent on duty, when he insisted that the box remain with him, Tigilau asked to speak to him outside. The Customs agent then gave instructions to another Customs agent on duty to keep an eye on the box while he steps outside to speak to Tigilau.

According to the Customs agent, once outside, Tigilau allegedly begged him by saying, "Faamolemole, Alofa Mai" (Please show me some love), "Faamolemole, ku'u mai se avagoa" (Please give me a chance).

The Customs agent told Tigilau that he's sorry, but he has to do his job. He then told Tigilau that he could leave because the box was addressed to Tavai, to which Tigilau allegedly responded that the box belonged to him, and he loves Tavai because they are related.

When the Customs agent walked back into the Post Office, he noticed that Tigilau was missing, along with the box that was on the inspection table. He said only Tavai was standing outside the door.

The Customs agent, along with a co-worker, ran out to the parking lot to look for Tigilau and the package. The court affidavit says Tigilau was in his vehicle when the Customs agent came looking for him. The Customs agent claims he asked Tigilau what he was trying to do and Tigilau again begged him to "show me some love."

The Customs agent opened the back door of Tigilau's truck and removed the box from the vehicle while Tigilau was allegedly trying to drive off. The Customs agent told Tigilau to stop the truck and come back inside. At this time, Tavai had hopped in the truck.

The Customs agent advised both men to stop what they were doing, don't make things worse.

Tavai stepped out of the truck first, and returned to the Post Office.

When questioned by police, Tavai said Tigilau approached him two weeks ago at his Vailoa residence to ask if he could use his post office box to receive a parcel, although the contents of the package were never disclosed.

Tavai said they went to the Post Office that day, whereby he picked up the yellow card and proceeded to pick up the parcel. When the Customs officer found what appeared to be drugs in the box, Tavai said he turned to Tigilau and "asked him to say something about the box."

According to the court affidavit, Tigilau tried to talk the Customs agent into letting him go, saying he "won't do it again." When told that he could leave because the box was under Tavai's name, Tigilau allegedly told the Customs agents that he couldn’t leave Tavai because the box was his and he was using Tavai's box number.

When police conducted a search of Tigilau's vehicle, they allegedly found a black pouch that Tigilau denied knowing anything about. Cops opened the pouch and allegedly found a clear glass pipe containing what appeared to be a white crystalline substance and “Zigzag” rolling papers, which Tigilau said belonged to his cousin.

The white substance tested positive for meth.

Tavai told police police he saw a glass pipe containing a white substance inside Tigilau's truck when they were heading to the Post Office that day.

Tigilau was booked later that same day and transported to the TCF to await his day in court. He remains in custody, unable to post a $30,000 surety bond.

Tavai was released, pending further investigation.