Man caught with barrel of cocaine gets 57 months in federal prison

Robert Afaisen speaks to the media after his sentencing hearing at the District Court of Guam Monday Jan. 13, 2020 in Hagåtña. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Robert Afaisen thought of his 19-year-old son as he was being sentenced in the District Court of Guam for cocaine possession on Monday.

"Losing a child is the worse thing any parent could endure," said Afaisen. "Those were the dark days of my life."

His son had just died three months before a plastic barrel filled with cocaine washed ashore near his house in Inarajan in 2018.

"He thought this was a gift from his dead son," said defense attorney John Gorman. "He was shattered and made a bad decision.

Afaisen faced 10 years to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to possession of 11 pounds or more of cocaine hydrochloride with intent to distribute.

However, the prosecution and the U.S. Probation Services agreed Afaisen should serve less time, as he has no prior criminal record and is not connected to any major drug operation.

"That could have done a lot of damage," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Sambataro. "We know he did give to others. He was taking advantage of the opportunity presented. But, he did, when caught, accept responsibility and made the right decision."

Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood sentenced him to 57 months in a Bureau of Prison facility on Monday.

"I did have the cocaine. I'm sorry I didn't turn it in," Afaisen said. "I am sorry I didn't turn it in."

Afaisen told the court he never sought out any buyers himself. He had hoped to use the money from the drug sales to pay for his power and water bill, plus the funeral expenses for his son.

"I am sorry to my family...for making the wrong decision in life. I promise I will make it up to them and I love them all," he said.

A judicial recommendation was made to have Afaisen to serve his time in Oregon. He will self-surrender to U.S. Marshals on Guam at a later date.

He will also serve four years' supervised release once he gets out of prison.

Robert Afaisen and his cousin, Jimmy Afaisen, were among several others charged in local court in connection with the seizure of more than 35 pounds of cocaine.

The Afaisen cousins' local case was dismissed, as they faced federal charges.

Jimmy Afaisen has since pleaded guilty to drug charges and was sentenced last year to serve six months in federal prison.

It dropped off

Afaisen's case was unique for Guam.

In 2018, federal authorities had noticed a growing trend of cocaine surfacing on the island.

Sambataro told the court aside from Afaisen's case, federal agents responded to the Hawaiian Rock facility along Route 15 in Mangilao that same year after cocaine had washed ashore. She could not publicly disclose other cases that Drug Enforcement Administration agents have uncovered since then.

"After the large seizure was made, it dropped off," she said, adding that the DEA caught the problem before it got out of hand.

"The great mystery is where did it come from and where was it going?" said Gorman. "It is so tempting when something like that washes up because it potentially represents a huge amount of money, but you do have to turn it in because it's not going to work out well."

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