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Jury trial set for man accused of recruiting a minor to sell weed

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man accused of giving marijuana to a minor to sell for him at the beginning of this year has asked the High Court to set his case for jury trial — and trial is now set for March 2024.

Falani Opetaia appeared in court last week for his pretrial conference.

The defense attorney told the court that they had received all the discovery from the government — along with an offer for a plea agreement — however, his client wishes to maintain his innocence, hence his request for a jury trial.

For now, Opetaia remains in custody, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond.


Opetaia was arrested after a 17-year-old male who was caught smoking marijuana at the side of a store in Mesepa told investigators that it was Opetaia who gave him marijuana to sell in the village.

Opetaia is charged with one count of unlawful possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, a felony punishable by imprisonment of 5-10 years, and a fine of $5,000-$20,000; and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

Detectives from the DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit received a call from a woman who was waiting for a bus, claiming that a minor — smoking marijuana behind the store — was caught smoking by a man. Officers responded and were able to speak with both the caller and the minor.

When questioned by detectives, the minor said the marijuana he was smoking came from a guy named “Fritz” who was later identified as Falani Opetaia, the defendant.

According to the minor, Opetaia always gives him free marijuana in exchange for selling his product for $5 a joint to the public. He added that he also sells marijuana joints for another man by the name of “Victor” from Iliili.

Opetaia allegedly admitted to police that he receives money from the minor for selling his marijuana joints to the public, and he also gave the minor two marijuana joints to smoke as a reward.