Prisoner caught dealing marijuana in jail

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 24 August 2019, 7:00PM

A prisoner with a history of drugs offences stretching back 30 years has been convicted of selling marijuana to fellow convicts while behind bars.

Taai Togia, from Lalovaea and Nu'u-fou, was convicted on Friday for knowingly possessing 291 marijuana cigarettes found inside the Tafa'igata Prison. 

Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala – Warren sentenced Togia to four years' and three months imprisonment. 

The sentence is cumulative to his current imprisonment term. 

Although Togia said he was regretful of his actions and asked for forgiveness, the Court paid little regard to his remorse. 

The Judge accepted the prisoner’s remorse but gave him very little credit for it because it was a result of his being caught. 

“The place of offending calls for deterrent sentence,” said Justice Tafaoimalo. 

“It shows his total disregard for the law and the prison authorities.

“This occurred in prison and shows the ease with which narcotics can enter prison. Prison authorities need to be more alert to the supply from outside of narcotics.” 

An order was also issued for the Prisons and Corrections Services (S.P.C.S.) to keep other prisoners who gave evidence in the trial safe and separate from the defendant.

The evidence disclosed that Togia had directed another prisoner, also a co-defendant, to go to the prison fence at Tafaigata and collect marijuana from someone outside the fence by the name Pumba. 

The co-defendant did so and brought the marijuana back to the defendant. 

Togia then started to sell the marijuana cigarettes inside Cell 1 to fellow prisoners. The prison authorities conducted a search and found 291 marijuana cigarettes inside a bucket belonging to the defendant.

The defendant is 46 years old, married with seven children.  

He is currently at Tanumalala Prison but the offending took place at Tafaigata Prison.

An aggravating feature of the offending was that it was premeditated and required an arrangement to be made for someone to bring a substantial quantity of marijuana from outside the prison. 

The Court heard the marijuana was intended for commercial sale for financial gain as there is clear evidence that he started to sell narcotics to other prisoners. 

The defendant has a long list of previous convictions for narcotics offences dating back to 1990.

Earlier this year another prisoner convicted for attempted murder was also sentenced for smoking marijuana at the Tafaigata prison. 

He was caught smoking inside his cell by a prison guard.

In May, the prison authority revealed that families of offenders have been caught smuggling marijuana inside food for their imprisoned relatives.

Others use soup to disguise the substance; some even resort to weaving marijuana leaves inside coconut baskets used for food. 

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 24 August 2019, 7:00PM

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