Man sentenced to serve jail time in case of marijuana found inside speaker
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The 32-year-old father of 3 young children that was convicted of importing a controlled substance, to wit; marijuana into the territory in April of 2018 was ordered to serve an imprisonment term of 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) and pay a fine of $5,000.
During Albert Ifopo’s sentencing this week, the court took the time to explain in detail about the defendant’s case while members of his family including his parents and his grandmother and church members were listening.
According to the court, Ifopo was initially charged with the offense of importing of a controlled substance into the territory, a class D felony, punishable by an imprisonment term of up to 5 years and or a fine of up to $5,000.
He was also charged separately of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, marijuana in the territory, a class B felony, punishable by imprisonment of not less than 5 years and not more than 15 years.
Under a plea agreement, the government agreed to dismiss the more serious class B felony charge, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, and the defendant agreed to pled guilty to a class D felony, the importing of controlled substance into the territory.
The court then stated that on Apr. 20, 2018, a package, actually a speaker box, arrived at the Pago Pago International Airport aboard Hawaiian Airlines and was addressed to the defendant. He further explained how the drugs were found and what Ifopo subsequently told customs officers that the package belonged to his uncle who is residing in Samoa, who asked him for his help to mail a speaker from some of his family members from off-island.
While in custody, the defendant told police that he has no knowledge that there were illegal drugs inside the package. He further stated that he did this for his uncle because he wanted to help him. The government claimed that approximately 5 lbs of marijuana was found inside the speaker.
Before the court announced its sentence, the defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill called two witnesses to the stand; the defendant’s mother and his church Minister.
According to the mother’s testimony, her “son” is an obedient boy who loved to attend church activities and youth functions. He does not drink beer nor smoke cigarettes, but she suspects that perhaps this changed in her son’s life when he started to hang out with his new friends. The mother said she didn’t know the names of these friends.
In conclusion, she asked the court to release her son so that they can be together as a family.
The defendant’s church Minister also testified to the court that Ifopo is a hardworking young man, who loved to offer his time to help with a lot of church activities including youth functions. He’s a young man whom he never sees smoking or drinking.
In his own words, the defendant apologized to the court for his actions and begged for another chance so that he could go back home and be with his family, his wife and kids, and also to attend his church spiritual activities.
Ifopo said that he had learned a lot from his mistake while he was detained in prison for 219 days before he posted bond. He assured the court that if he is given another chance, he would do his best to stay away from trouble and focus on his job to take care of his mother and family.
Defense attorney, McNeill asked the court for a probated sentence for his client, who is truly remorseful for his action and took full responsibility for what he did. McNeill told the court that Ifopo is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence without any additional period of detention.
Prosecutor Doug Lowe echoed the defense attorney’s request, to sentence the defendant to a probated sentence, and allow him to go back home and seek employment to take care of his family. Lowe stated that Ifopo is a productive member of society who does not have a criminal history.
The court told both attorneys that if they look at the pre-sentence report, there’s a lot more evidence in there that bothers the court. He did not elaborate on what he meant.
Sources told Samoa News that the defendant did explain to the Probation officer who interviewed him everything about the speaker and the drugs that were hidden inside, together with the “names” of the person or persons who own the drugs.
Ifopo was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 5 years and a fine of $5,000. The prison sentence was suspended, and the defendant was placed on probation for 5 years pending serving 20 months detention with no release except for a genuine medical emergency or at the request of the court.
After serving 6 months of detention, the court will entertain a motion for work release provided that the defendant can be gainfully employed.
The court told the defendant and his attorney that gainful employment does not include family farming nor employment with any businesses associated with his family. He can be employed by the government or any private companies.
He was also ordered to pay a fine of $5,000, attend and complete substance abuse counseling, and he must also agree to random testing.
Lastly, the court stated that Ifopo had initially posted a cash bond of $10,000 and failed to show up at an earlier hearing.
After that, the court issued a bench warrant, which resulted in his arrest, and it was at that same time his prior attorney moved to withdraw.
The court is mandated to forfeit bond, however the court will entertain any motion within 10 days, and if nothing is filed, the $10,000 cash bond will be forfeited to the government.