Man accused of robbing a store allegedly admits he tried to do it once before
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 26-year-old man from Malaeimi accused of punching the female cashier at a store in the Tafuna area and then taking off with $670 cash three months ago was arrested by police last month pursuant to an arrest warrant from the court. During his apprehension, cops discovered a glass pipe containing methamphetamine (meth) in his possession.
Panoa Moselini made his initial appearance in court last month. According to court documents, Moselini has a criminal record dating back to 2015, when he was convicted of misdemeanor stealing
Moselini is charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth, an unclassified felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years, nor more than ten years, a fine of not less than $5,000, nor more than $20,000, or both; one count of robbery in the first degree; one count of stealing; both felonies; along with a class A misdemeanor charge of 3rd degree assault.
The court set bail for Mose at $15,000.
Preliminary examination is set for next week.
The defense attorney asked the court to reduce his client’s bail to $5,000, saying that the case against him is just an allegation and his client is a hard working man who provides for his family and this family really needs him to support them financially.
The prosecutor on the other hand strongly opposed the defense’s motion. The government’s attorney told the court that the defendant’s action was very serious and he’s also a danger to the community and a flight risk too.
The court agreed and denied the defense’s motion.
The government claims that on the evening of Sept. 12, 2021, the owner of a store in the Tafuna area called the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS), regarding a male individual who allegedly stole $670 from her store and assaulted her female employee.
Several police officers responded to the call and spoke to the caller —who is also the owner of the store — and she pointed officers to the location where the victim was standing. Officers approached the victim and interviewed her.
According to the victim’s verbal statement to police, she was counting her money getting ready to close the shop, when an unknown male walked in and went straight to the refrigerator at the back of the store, grabbed two large bottles of beer and canned food from the shelves and walked towards her and placed the items on the counter.
The man then walked over and grabbed two pisupo cans and walked back to her.
She then told him that he couldn’t buy the beer because it was 10 p.m. The man argued that it was only 9:55 p.m on his watch.
And as she tried to explain to him that the law does not allow her to sell alcohol after 10 p.m. he all of a sudden shoved her and she fell to the ground while the suspect fled on foot — with the cash. When she got up, she called out to her two male co-workers who were in the storeroom at the back of the store and they went outside looking for the individual.
When she got outside, she approached a male and his girlfriend who were at the bus stop and asked them for help. They ignored her. In the meantime, the suspect was nowhere to be found. The victim stated that the amount of money he took was $670 even.
The victim was able to show police footage of the incident that took place at the shop.
Upon reviewing the footage, officers saw the incident unfold, including how the suspect pushed the victim to the ground and grabbed the money under the counter before he took off.
The victim did not sustain any physical injuries, so, no medical assistance was needed.
After officers gathered the information regarding the alleged incident, they then left the scene and looked for the suspect, but their search that night was unsuccessful.
The following day around 1:30p.m, officers proceeded to the scene to follow up on the case, where they later met with three different male individuals who were able to identify the man in the footage. The three individuals told police that the person in the footage was Panoa Moselini, who works at a construction company owned by a man from Nu’uuli.
Communication was made with the contractor in Nu’uuli and they confirmed that Moselini worked there, however, he was not at work on that day.
One week later after the alleged incident in September, officers went back to the contractor to locate Mose, however, they were informed that Moselini had resigned and he was no longer employed by the company.
Police continued to look for him but at the time, he was nowhere to be found.
However, last month, officers received a lead from a witness that Moselini was now back at the construction company in Nu’uuli. Officers contacted the company and they confirmed that Moselini was at the compound.
Officers proceeded to the company’s location in Nu’uuli and picked up the suspect and escorted him to the police station for questioning.
Before he was taken into custody, officers searched him for weapons or any contraband. During the search, officers discovered a glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance in Moselini’s pocket. (The substance was tested later, and was positive for meth.)
Moselini refused to make a statement to police when he was questioned, however, while waiting to be transported to jail, Moselini informed one of the officers that he wanted to make a statement about what actually happened.
According to Moselini’s statement to police, the incident happened when he first entered the store and saw that the female cashier (victim) was counting money on the counter, so he just went in and bought one large bottle of beer and went back outside.
After drinking his beer outside of the store for about 20 minutes, he then decided to go back inside to steal the money the female cashier was counting.
His account of the incident was similar to what the victim described.
However, he noted that he was nervous at the time and didn’t know exactly what to do, which is why he walked to the back of the store and grabbed two cans of pisupo.
“As I was walking towards the cashier,” he said, “someone was pushing my heart and said, do it right now before it’s too late. Attack her and take everything and go while nobody is watching.”
Moselini further stated to police that he needed money to buy food for himself and his family. He said that after he took the money, he went to his shack and hid $500 in his wallet and placed it under his mat. Moselini further stated to investigators that he had attempted to rob the same store two months before the incident. However, he stopped and went back home because he was not ready to perform his mission.
Later on he changed his statement and stated to officers that after he left the scene, he ran into a friend (Moselini refused to identify the friend), who let him use his cellphone to call for a taxi. He was then picked up by a taxi and he went to Nu’uuli, bought some groceries and then headed back to his house.
When asked about the glass pipe containing meth discovered inside his pants pocket, Moselini said the glass pipe belonged to him and he bought it from a co-worker. He refused to reveal the name of the co-worker.