Expired tag and meth lands man with other convictions back in court
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 48-year-old man who is on probation after being convicted of felony drug possession is now back in custody after police allegedly discovered a quantity of illegal drugs in his possession during a traffic stop last month.
The man, Kaleti Tafito also has two previous convictions in District Court for misdemeanor stealing and assault.
Tafito is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, both felonies which carry an imprisonment sentence between 5 to 10 years, a fine between $5,000 and $20,000, or both; along with one count of resisting arrest, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Tafito made his initial appearance in District Court last month where Judge Elvis P. Patea set a $15,000 surety bond.
The preliminary hearing is now scheduled for Friday this week.
The government’s case against Tafito stems from an incident that occurred on June. 5th about 8:19p.m when two police officers patrolling the Malaeimi public highway spotted a pickup truck heading westbound with an expired license tag.
Officers radioed the dispatcher for a quick check on the status of the license plate, with the dispatcher stating that it had expired two years ago.
Officers pulled over the vehicle and approached the driver to explain the purpose of the stop. One male individual was inside the vehicle when officers pulled him over. He was later identified as Tafito, the defendant in this matter.
Officers told the defendant his vehicle’s license tag expired two years ago, but Tafito argued that he had renewed his registration in April of last year. While officers were speaking with the defendant, one officer saw the defendant try to reach into his right pocket.
When officers instructed the defendant to turn off his engine and step outside, the defendant resisted and started to move his vehicle forward. A few moments later, the defendant agreed to comply with police. As it turned out the defendant also did not possess a valid driver’s license — it also had expired two years ago.
The two officers then impounded the vehicle and transported it to the Tafuna Police Substation, where one of the officers started issuing citations to the defendant for the violations and later informed the defendant that he would need to conduct an inventory of the vehicle because it would be impounded, but released back after proper paperwork was completed.
Before officers conducted the inventory search of the vehicle, Tafito was patted-down.
During the pat-down, officers discovered a medium sized baggie in the defendant’s right pocket. Inside the medium baggie were 3 small stamped-sized baggies containing white crystalline substance.
During the inventory search of the vehicle — with the defendant present, police observed a black pouch underneath the passenger seat. Inside the black pouch were 5 cut-up straws containing white crystalline substance.
At this point, after the white crystalline substance was allegedly discovered on the defendant and inside his vehicle, the DPS Vice and Narcotic and K9 Unit were contacted and they came to take over the drug investigation.
The white crystalline substance that was inside the plastic baggie tested positive for methamphetamine.
The defendant was informed of his constitutional rights and he acknowledged them and wished to make a verbal statement about the incident.
According to Tafito’s statement to police, the methamphetamine found in his possession and inside his vehicle does not belong to him. He said that when he got inside his vehicle, he witnessed the medium baggie inside the black pouch. He removed the medium baggie containing methamphetamine and put it inside his pocket before he placed the black pouch under the passenger’s seat.
In 2015, Tafito was charged and convicted of misdemeanor stealing in District Court and was sentenced to 12 months probation. The conviction stemmed from an incident where Tafito stole a tool box from his friend’s mechanic shop in Tafuna and sold it to another man for one case of beer.
Two years later, in July of 2017, Tafito was arrested and charged for assaulting his daughter’s husband during a drinking session with the victim. He was later convicted by the court and sentenced to 12 months probation.
In August of last year, the court sentenced Tafito to probation, with jail time, after he was convicted of unlawful possession of methamphetamine.
Tafito was ordered to serve 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) as one of the conditions of a 5-year probation term, and he was to serve only 7 months, which included the 5 months he had already served in pretrial confinement. The remaining 13 months were stayed as long as he was in compliance with conditions of his probation.
Tafito was banned from entering any bars, taverns, or businesses that sell alcohol, and he was not to congregate with people who are doing drugs or consuming alcohol.