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Man arrested for alleged illegal drugs, a lot of traffic fines, and bench warrants

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young man with several bench warrants including a huge amount of traffic fines owed to the court was arrested last week on allegations of unlawful possession of illegal drugs.

Philip Onofia made his initial appearance in District Court this week.

Onofia is charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine; one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, both felonies

Bail is set at $3,000 cash.

If he posts bond, the court has ordered he abide by the usual restrictions, including that he pay his outstanding fines of $850.

During his initial appearance, defense attorney asked the court to quash the two bench warrants the court issued to arrest his client. He said his client was unaware of his court hearings.

Judge Elvis P. Patea informed Onofia that whenever he is ordered to appear in court, it’s his duty to make the court his first priority.

“If you post your bond, make sure you make all of your court appearances; if you fail, the court will find you and hold you at the TCF without bail until the matter is resolved. So, take this first incident as a lesson for you,” Patea informed Onofia

Onofia is scheduled to appear in court next Friday, Apr. 3rd at 10:30 a.m for his preliminary examination.


On Mar. 16th, 2020, police stopped a truck in Fagaalu during a traffic stop for a seatbelt violation.

Police impounded the vehicle and later discovered a clear glass pipe with a usable amount of methamphetamine inside. An inventory was conducted by two other cops who discovered two glass pipes containing crystalline substances; one hand rolled marijuana cigarette, along with several empty small ziplock baggies commonly used to package methamphetamine, on the passenger side.

Two individuals were inside the vehicle when it was stopped — the male driver, who was later identified as Mark Lagolago, and Onofia, who was sitting in the passenger side.

Asked for his driver’s license, Lagolago said he didn’t have it on him; and when police requested some sort of identification, he had nothing.

Information from the Fagatogo dispatcher to the investigating officers revealed that the vehicle is registered to Lagolago, the driver, and his driver’s license had expired in Sept.12, 2018.

During the course of the investigation, Lagolago told cops that there was another glass pipe that Onofia hid under his seat.

Officers went back to the vehicle to check the seat and discovered a glass pipe containing meth and one stamp size baggie also containing methamphetamine.

When questioned by police, the driver said he had no knowledge of the illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia that were found inside his vehicle. He said Onofia was the one responsible for everything that was recovered from the vehicle. He further stated to police that he saw Onofia hiding something under his seat when their vehicle was pulled over, but he did not see what it was.

The driver was cited for driving a vehicle with no driver’s license and a seatbelt violation. He was later released pending an investigation.

When confronted by police, Onofia verbally stated that he doesn't know who owns the glass pipes discovered inside the vehicle, adding that he asked the driver of the vehicle to drop him off at his uncle’s home in Pago Pago.

Onofia refused to provide a written statement to police.

The crystalline substance from the clear glass pipe discovered on Onofia was tested and yielded positive results for meth.