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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (May 6, 2002 - Samoa News/PINA Nius Online)---Only one of six Samoan defendants facing drug charges in Honolulu has been released on bail after a detention hearing at the United States Federal Court.

Fa‘atali Malepeai was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond. Detention hearings for the other five Samoan defendants are continuing.

Since their arrests in Honolulu and on Maui, a total of 40 defendants, including Samoans and Tongans, have remained in federal custody.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that the arrests are the result of a 16-month investigation and break-up of a major drug distribution ring.

The drug ring operated in Hawai‘i, California, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, federal authorities said.

Two Samoans are among four other individuals facing State of Hawai‘i drug charges.

The FBI list and federal court documents included the names of those charged in the federal case. They include four who are apparently related, based on their last name of Malepeai. They are Amako (also known as "Mako" or "Sepa"); Fa‘atali; Silila (also known as "Steelz") and Tasi (also known as "Taz") Malepeai, all Honolulu residents.

Also charged are Silo Tagoai (also known as Priscilla Afoa or Silo Tagata), of Honolulu, and Mark Tagoai, of California.

These six Samoans, several Tongan nationals and others are charged with "knowingly and intentionally (acting) to distribute methamphetamine and to distribute cocaine," said court documents.

Following the detention hearing, Amako, Tasi and Silila Malepeai along with Priscilla Aofa were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal, with their hearing to continue.

Hawai‘i media identified Silila and Tasi Malepeai as brothers, who were well known when they played football for St. Louis High School in Honolulu.

Fa‘atali Malepeai's $50,000 unsecured bond was co-signed by Toaiva Sagapolutele and the court imposed conditions on the release of the defendant.

These include restricted travel within Hawai‘i and complying with all conditions set by pre-trial services.

The defendant must have no contact with co-defendants or witnesses in the case, is prohibited from possession of firearms or illegal drugs and prohibited from obtaining a passport.

The defendant is also placed in the "third-party custodianship of Toaiva Sagapolutele" at an Aiea residence. There was no indication of when Fa‘atali Malepeai is scheduled to appear again in court.

The Honolulu Advertiser said Fa‘atali is married to Amako Malepeai and that Fa‘atali was released to the custody of her mother, but did not identify the mother by name.

Fa‘atali’s lawyer described her as a housewife with four kids.

Mark Tagoai remains in federal custody, but details of his detention hearing were not available at press time.

Most of the defendants have been given court appointed attorneys and preliminary hearings are set for early this week.

A Tongan national, a Maui Police officer and arrested in this case, James Mateaki, was released late last week to his wife after he posted $50,000 bail.

Mateaki was indicted for allegedly providing confidential information from the Maui Police Department to others charged in the case.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

For additional reports from the Samoa News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa News.

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