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Court Report: Man convicted of burlary and stealing — allegedly caught at it again

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Akeli Lautala is charged for violating local drug laws and for trying to break into a store in Pago Pago in June of this year. Lautala made his initial appearance in District Court last month.

Lautala, who is on probation after being convicted of stealing and burglary 5 years ago is charged with unlawful possession of the controlled substance, marijuana; unlawful possession of the controlled substance, methamphetamine (meth), resisting arrest and attempted burglary in the second-degree — all class D felonies, along with disturbing the public peace (PPD) and trespass, both class B misdemeanors.

The court established Lautala’s bond at $15,000. If he posts bond, the court has ordered the usual restrictions, including he not set foot in the store he allegedly tried to break into and enter, and to not make any contact with the government's witnesses.


According to the government’s case, a woman informed police about a male who tried to break into a store in Pago Pago on the early morning of Aug. 25, 2022 by trying to damage the side window of the building. The woman was inside her vehicle, which was parked in front of her uncle’s home across from the location of the store when she witnessed the alleged crime and immediately called police for assistance.

Police responded to the call but were unable to locate the suspect. The suspect fled the scene before two police units arrive.

Another eyewitness who was near the scene when police arrived told officers that the man who attempted to break into the store used to live at his aunt’s house a few years back.

Police interviewed the woman who reported the alleged incident and she identified the suspect to police as Akeli Lautala.

At the time, efforts to locate the suspect were unsuccessful.

 However, four weeks ago, Sept. 30, the same reporter contacted police again, telling them the man she saw trying to break into the store in Pago Pago a month ago was walking in the Tafuna area.

When police arrived, this time the witness identified the defendant, who was sitting in front of a store in the Tafuna area. Police approached Lautala and while speaking with police, he immediately turned and ran away. A foot chase ensued with police, who were also helped by some of the men at the store.

About half an hour later, Lautala was apprehended and transported to the TPS for questioning. Prior to transportation, a body search was carried out during which police discovered three rolled cigarettes wrapped together inside a white paper, along with 2 small stamp-sized baggies containing a green leafy substance inside Lautala’s right pocket:

Lautala told police they were marijuana cigarettes and leaves he got from a friend, who sells marijuana on the road in the Tafuna area. He did not reveal his friend's name.

When asked about the alleged incident where he attempted to break into a store in the village, Lautala said he doesn’t know anything about that case. He said he never went to the the store in Pago Pago. He lives in Happy Valley in the Tafuna area and that is the only area where he hangs out.


A man convicted of driving with a permanently suspended license was ordered by the court to serve 90 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).

Naasona Puni appeared in High Court last week where he was sentenced to 20 months at the TCF, as a condition of a 5-year probation term.

Puni, who was held in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $5,000 cash bond, pled guilty to the initial charge under a plea agreement with the government.

With his guilty plea, Puni admits that on the night of Dec. 9, 2021 he operated a motor vehicle while his license was permanently suspended by the District Court. He had been convicted of driving under the influence three times previously.

The defense attorney reminded the court that despite his client's conviction, it was clear from the police report that there was no alcohol or illegal drugs involved when police pulled him over.

The prosecutor echoed the defense’s motion for a probated sentence, saying the defendant has shown true remorse for his action. She however added that a period of incarceration is appropriate for this case, so a message is sent out to other drivers whose licenses have been suspended — that the court will not take these issues lightly.

The court sentenced Puni to 5 years imprisonment; however, execution of the sentence was suspended, and he is placed on probation for 5 years under certain conditions.

He is to serve 20 months at the TCF. After 6 months — which includes time served — the court will consider a motion for work release.

Puni is not eligible for trustee status while at the TCF.


A taxi driver who was charged with unlawful possession of a glass pipe containing meth after his vehicle was pulled over by police in November of last year has pled guilty in High Court.

Alem Talo, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $5,000 cash bond, appeared in High Court last week for a Change of Plea hearing.

Talo, in a plea agreement with the government last month, pled guilty to unlawful possession of meth. With his guilty plea, Talo admits that on Dec. 21, 2021 he unlawfully possessed a glass pipe and a small stamp-sized baggie, which contained meth.

According to the plea agreement, on Dec. 21, a man called the TPS to report something that happened when a taxi picked him and his wife up from Ottoville and dropped them off at his work place in Malaeimi.

The driver of the taxi was later identified as Alema Talo, the defendant in this case.

The government claims that when the young couple jumped inside the taxi at their home in Ottoville, the driver immediately whispered to the man asking if he wanted to buy a ‘straw’ from him. The passenger asked Talo what he was referring to, and Talo replied he had straws containing meth and he’s selling them for $20 per straw.

The young couple was uncomfortable throughout the ride; and immediately after they were dropped off at their work place, the man contacted the TPS and alerted them about the situation, including all the information regarding Talo and his vehicle.

Not long afterwards, police located and stopped the taxi matching the description the caller provided. After a brief conversation with police, Talo agreed to a body search and a search of his vehicle. That's when two small baggies containing meth were discovered inside the left pocket of Talo’s pants.

The white crystalline substance tested positive for meth.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 13.


Two men were arrested last month for fighting during a family gathering in Fogagogo.

Anthony Sua and Lama Faavesi made their initial appearances in District Court last month. They are charged with third-degree assault and disturbing the public peace.

The Court released both men on their own recognizance, subject to the usual conditions: remain drug and alcohol free, and maintain the peace at home at all times.

The court affidavit states that it was in the middle of a family gathering when Sua started walking around the guest house yelling profanities while holding a beer bottle in his right hand. He also damaged one of the outside lights.

Faavesi’s mother tried to calm Sua down and told him to go to sleep but he continued to yell out and call out people.

Faavesi ran over to Sua and allegedly punched him in the face, at which point Sua stood up and punched Faavesi in the face — and a fight between the two men ensued.

Police arrived at the scene and were able to calm the situation. Afterwards, both men were transported to the Central Police Station for questioning.

They were later booked and confined at the TCF

According to court records, Sua is on probation for 12 months, after being convicted in December of 2021 of third-degree assault and trespassing. One of the conditions of his probation was to be alcohol free and a law-abiding citizen.


A man accused of possessing a glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance and hand rolled cigarettes containing a green leafy substance was arrested and charged for violating local drug laws.

Pulega Folasa made his initial appearance in court last week. He is charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; meth, a felony, punishable by imprisonment from 5-10 years, a $5,000 fine up to $20,000.

Bail is set at $5,000.


On Sept. 3, 2022 around 4p.m, DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit received information from the TPS regarding a glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance and three marijuana cigarettes found on an individual who was allegedly involved in a case they were investigating.

The two individuals involved in this matter Mr. Folasa and his girlfriend Malia Unasa were later transported to the TPS for further investigation. At the TPS, officers were suspicious of Ms. Unasa’s movements and after a pat down, she was asked for consent to look through her bag — and she gave officers consent.

During the search, police discovered a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance and confiscated it. A small portion of the white crystalline substance was tested and yielded positive results for meth.

After she was Mirandized, she stated to police that the glass pipe found inside her bag belonged to her boyfriend, Folasa; and, she was not aware that Folasa had put the glass pipe in her bag.

Folasa was also questioned by the police regarding the glass pipe, and he admitted to owning the pipe found by police inside Unasa’s bag and confirmed Unasa's statement that she didn’t know he had put it inside her bag.

When asked where he had gotten the glass pipe, Folasa refused to say.

During a body search on Folasa, officers discovered 3 hand rolled cigarettes inside his wallet, which were hidden inside his rear pocket.

The report did not mention if the cigarettes were actually marijuana joints.