Puna case: ‘I had 6500 photos on my phone’

Wednesday June 12, 2019 Written by Published in National
Little Puna Raela accompanied by Cook Islands government officials at the Rarotonga Airport on Monday. 19061031 Little Puna Raela accompanied by Cook Islands government officials at the Rarotonga Airport on Monday. 19061031

US Customs most likely offended by photos of ‘Cook Islands dancing ladies shaking bottoms’, claims 72yo caregiver.

 American expat Marc Pearce has angrily hit back at an official statement that he had “questionable material” on his phone when he took 9-year-old Ngatapuna Raela through Los Angeles Airport.

He indicated he had no idea what US Customs and the Cook Islands Government were talking about.

“Do you suppose that ‘questionable material’ was Cook Islands dancing ladies shaking their bottoms?” he asked.

“Of the 6500 photos on my iPhone, got any idea which ones they might be, or are you slandering me?”

The 72-year-old family friend and neighbour traveled with Puna to the United States on May 25, on what was planned to be a month-long holiday.

He had her parents’ approval, but after he presented the wrong papers for her, he was taken in for questioning.

He was eventually released – claiming he had no idea what the problem was. But Puna was put in the Southwest Key detention facility for unaccompanied immigrant children, where she was kept for two weeks without any contact with her family.

Little Puna freed from US detention, returning home
Foreign affairs works to extricate girl from detention

*Puna Back with her family

There are now doubts Cook Islands authorities will allow Pearce to return to this country and to Aitutaki, where he has long resided. As a US citizen, he has no automatic right of entry.

Pearce told Cook Islands News he has been in touch with Raela’s family and his plans to return to the Cook Islands were yet to be confirmed.

He insists he is the victim of a cover-up by US Customs and Border Protection: “I think they screwed up and want to cover up,” he said.

“Questionable material on my phone was not the explanation I was given. That same material would also be on my laptop, but I guess it wasn’t or they didn’t see it.”

Pearce said he had suffered lies, harassment and attempted intimidation by officials, who said they could not contact Puna’s family to verify her travel documents.

“When I was physically removed from Tom Bradley International terminal after 11½ hours without Puna, the first thing I did was contact Puna’s mother, first try.

“I then called her grandfather and was immediately connected.

Raela was finally flown home to Aitutaki on Monday, and is safely back with her family.


  • Comment Link joesonenz Friday, 14 June 2019 17:12 posted by joesonenz

    Why was Puna not at school .I smell a rat....

  • Comment Link Cheissy Wednesday, 12 June 2019 12:13 posted by Cheissy

    Dear United States
    Please take time out of your day and read/learn about our beautiful culture it is called the HULA not SHAKING BOTTOMS , Yes our Arse and Hips connect but we are not shaking our bottoms it's all in our hips .... Think you's need to shake your damn heads so it falls off your neck

  • Comment Link Ben Teauraki Wednesday, 12 June 2019 11:09 posted by Ben Teauraki

    Te puaka pikika'a a te US

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