Court hears burglary case coupled with drug charges
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man from Malaeimi who was arrested and charged for burglarizing his relative’s home and store is now facing additional charges of unlawful possession of illegal drugs.
Loma Tufuga made his initial appearance in District Court last week.
Tufuga, 41, is facing charges in two separate cases.
In the first case, he is charged with two counts of second degree burglary; and two counts of stealing, both class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a $5,000 fine or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment for each count.
In the second case, he is charged with one count of unlawful possession methamphetamine (meth) and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana — both felonies.
Bail is set at $10,000.
If he posts bond, Tufuga is ordered to remain law abiding, not leave or attempt to leave the territory without the court’s permission, and not make any direct or indirect contact with the government’s witnesses, including the victim.
Tufuga waived his right to a preliminary hearing and his case was bound over to High Court. He appeared last Monday for arraignment where he entered a ‘not guilty’ plea to the charges. Pretrial conference is Dec. 30st.
THE BURGLARY CASE
Police received a complaint from a Petesa man regarding his home and store being burglarized by unknown people while he was off island two months ago. The victim told police that he and his family returned July 26th from a one month trip to find that the back door of their home had been broken and several personal items were missing.
Also, his store’s back door and the side window were also damaged.
The missing items included: miscellaneous power tools; 2 Samsung phones; a computer; 2 laptops; jewelry; 2 gold men’s watches; a box containing over $640 cash; clothes and shoes; 4 cartoons of cigarettes; one case of 3lb-cans of pisupo; 2 cases of beer and several other canned goods from the store.
While officers were trying to collect evidence, a female from Vaitogi came forward with information that would help investigators with their case.
The female told police that the culprit was her ex-husband. According to her, she was at home on the night of July 10th, when Tufuga called and asked if she needed anything from him. When she asked him what he meant, Tufuga said, “I got some stuff for you.”
Later that night, Tufuga went to his ex-wife’s home and gave her some jewelry, new clothes, and $100 cash. Before he left, he told his ex to look for someone wanting to buy some power tools from him.
Tufuga was picked up from his home in Pavaiai and taken in for questioning, where he verbally admitted to the July’s break-ins. During the interview, police noticed that Tufuga’s eyes were red and he acted like he was on something.
In his written statement, Tufuga noted down all the items he stole, along with the names of the people he sold them to. One of the people who bought a computer from him was a male taxi driver who told police he bought the computer from Tufuga for $150 but he didn’t know it was stolen.
An Asian man who works at a store in Malaeimi told police that Tufuga sold him a laptop and two power tools for $200. He said he’s known Tufuga for over 3 years and he always asks him for money to buy beer.
On July 29th, Tufuga came to his workplace trying to sell him a laptop and 2 power tools for $300. In the end, he gave Tufuga $200 for the items, saying he didn’t know they were stolen.
Last month, police went to Malaeimi with an arrest warrant for Tufuga, whom they found drinking with two men in front of a store in Malaeimi.
As soon as Tufuga saw the police unit coming towards him, he stood up and ran to the back of the store. Police followed him and he was apprehended at the back of the store. During a body search, police discovered a black wallet inside Tufuga’s pants. Inside the wallet were two hand rolled cigarettes and one small stamp-sized baggie containing a white crystalline substance.
When asked about the items, Tufuga said it was meth and marijuana. He allegedly admitted to police that he sold two stolen laptops to a man in Vaitogi for money to buy drugs. He refused to reveal the man’s name.