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Burglary suspects planned crime spree while island is on shut-down and you guessed it — meth involved

American Samoa District Court building
Fortunately their first caper went bad and one man was apprehended

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 22-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, Faleniko Lotu stated that the plan with two of his friends was to burglarize houses and stores while the government is in a lockdown due to the COVID-19. He said that they did it to get money to buy meth.

On May 13, 2020 around 9:21p.m, a man contacted the Tafuna Police Station for assistance after seeing two males trying to break into his neighbor’s house while his neighbor was off-island with his family.

Several police officers responded to the call and met up with the man who reported the matter. After speaking with the man, police went to the house to locate the two males, however, no one was seen at the scene. Police checked all sides of the house including an abandoned house at the back and they were unable to locate anybody.

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

One hour later, police received another phone call from the same area in Tafuna, from a women 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.

Several police officers responded to the call and met up with the woman who reported the matter, and the woman 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 young man he was detaining to police officers, who placed him inside a police unit.

The young man was later identified as Faleniko Lotu, the defendant in this case.

When questioned by police, the male victim in this case told police what happened. He stated that he went to drop off his girlfriend at work and forgot to lock the front door of his house. When he returned, he noticed that someone was inside his house. 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 inside his room was gone. His laptop and his phone, which was on the table inside 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.

As he was standing at the corner of his house, he witnessed the two young males trying to break the back door of the store. As he was walking close to the location where the two were standing, he noticed 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.

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.

After the victim questioned the defendant, he then instructed a woman who was witnessing the incident to call police for help.

After police arrived a witness came forward and told police that he had witnessed 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 Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) for questioning, he was patted down. Police found two glass pipes containing white crystalline substance inside the left pocket of his pants, along with a small stamp-sized baggie containing two marijuana joints.

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

According to Lotu’s written statement to investigators, he was at a bus stop in Nu’uuli when his friend “Wisco” 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 Lotu’s statement, he first entered a house around 9:10p.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 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 the 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 meth and the two marijuana joints from a man named Kolia from the Aute place.

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

Lotu made his initial appearance in District Court last week.

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, Lotu 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.

Preliminary hearing (PX) is set for Thursday next week, June 4th at 1:30p.m.