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Burglary spree stopped in the act — one man arrested, one got away

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 26-year-old man from Samoa arrested for breaking into a house and a store in the Tafuna area at night is also charged with violating local drug laws. When questioned by investigators, the defendant, Fale Lelevaga stated that the plan with two of his friends was to burglarize houses and stores to get money to buy drugs, beers and food for themselves.

On Feb. 13, 2021 around 11:21p.m, a woman contacted the Tafuna Police Station (TPS) for assistance after seeing two young men trying to break into her neighbor’s house while her neighbor was off-island with his family. The woman further stated to police that these were the same two young men she observed around the neighborhood two nights previously.

Several police officers responded to the call and met up with the woman who reported the matter.

When questioned by police, the woman stated that she observed one man wearing a red shirt and black long pants. She was unable to identify what the other man was wearing because he was too far on the other side of the house.

After speaking with the woman, police went to the house to locate the two males, however, no one was seen at the scene, despite also checking all sides of the house, including an abandoned house at the back.

Police left the area and continued on with their routine checks that night.

One hour later, police received another phone call from the same area in Tafuna, from an elderly couple asking for assistance after a man was able to detain a young man who was breaking into his home and a store next to his house. The elderly couple told police that the young man was wearing a red shirt and long black pants.

Several police officers responded to the call and met up with the elderly couple, who pointed them to the location where the man was detaining a young man allegedly found inside his home.

Officers went to the house and the man immediately handed over the man, who placed him in a police unit.

The young man was later identified as Fale Lelevaga, the defendant in this case.

When questioned by police, the male victim told police what happened.

He explained that he went to drop off his girlfriend at work and forgot to lock the front door of his house. When he returned, he saw a pair of sandals at the front door, which did not belong to him or his girlfriend.

He went inside the house and saw his wallet that had been on the table in his room was gone, and his laptop and his phone, which had been on a table in the living room were also gone. He immediately walked outside of the house and saw two young males standing at the back door of the store next to his house.

He witnessed the two young men trying to break the back door of the store , and as he walked closer to the location where the two were standing, he saw that they had apparently already broken into the store because they had food items allegedly stolen from the store on them.

The man ran towards the two males in an effort to stop them from fleeing the scene, however, he only managed to catch one male, who is the defendant in this case, while the other fled the scene with a black bag.

The victim brought the defendant into his house and asked him about his wallet, laptop and his cell phone. The defendant returned the wallet to the victim and told him that his friend took the laptop and the cell phone, along with a pair of shoes and clothes.

After the victim questioned the defendant, he then asked the elderly couple, who witnessed the incident to call the police.

After police arrived a witness came forward and told police that he had seen the two men entering the store. According to the witness, he was looking out from his house and something unusual caught his eye, a man jumping inside the store through the back window, while another man was standing outside looking around.

Before the defendant was transported to the TPS for questioning, he was patted down. Police found a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance inside the left pocket of his pants, along with a small stamp-sized baggie containing two marijuana joints.

After reading he was Mirandized, the defendant said he understood his rights and agreed to tell his side of the story.

According to Lelevaga’s written statement to investigators, he was at a bus stop in theTafuna area when his friend “Spunky” approached him and asked if he wanted to smoke some meth. He told his friend he wanted to but he had no money. His friend then told him that he knows a place they can rob to get money to buy meth.

According to Lelevaga’s statement, he first entered a house around 10p.m by breaking the back door, however, they immediately left the house and fled to the other side of the area after they heard a man calling out to them to get out of the house.

One hour later, they robbed another house after they saw the front door of the house was open. They both went inside the house and he grabbed a wallet from inside the room while his friend took a laptop and a cell phone from the living room.

They then left the house and went to the store next to the house where his friend gained entry into the store through the side window while he was standing outside as a lookout.

His friend returned with several food items, and they were standing at the back of store trying to make a plan for their next move when a man suddenly approached them and punched him in the face causing him to fall on the ground.

The defendant told police that he returned the wallet to the man who punched him in the face while his friend took off with the laptop, the cellphone and the rest of the stolen items from the store.

When asked about the drugs found in his possession, the defendant said that the drugs belonged to him. He bought the glass pipe containing meth and the two marijuana joints from a man named Utaga of Vaitogi.

Police are still looking for the second suspect in this case, who is known by the nick name of “Willie”.

Lelevaga made his initial appearance in District Court last month.

He is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine; one count of unlawful possession of marijuana; both unclassified felonies, punishable by imprisonment from 5-10 years, a fine of up to $20,000, or both; along with 3 counts of burglary in the 1st degree; 2 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.

Bail is set at $15,000.

If he posts bond, Lelevaga 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.