Man on his way to make a 'delivery' found with meth, ammo and money
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 40-year-old man convicted of violating the territory’s drug laws was given a huge break by the court when he was sentenced to serve 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), as one of the conditions of his 5-year probation. He and a co-defendant were originally detained after a traffic stop for not wearing seatbelts.
who has been in custody since his arrest in April of last year, unable to post a $10,000 bond, appeared in court last week for sentencing.
Lavea’i was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth); one count of unlawful possession of meth with the intent to distribute; both unclassified 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 unlawful possession of firearms and one count of unlawful possession of ammunition, both class D felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
However, in a plea agreement, accepted by the court in February of this year, Lavea’i pled guilty to the offense of unlawful possession of methamphetamine.
Lavea’i admits that on Mar. 17, 2020 police discovered inside his vehicle a bag containing meth that he got from an individual and was ready to deliver it to another person, along with contraband and ammunition.
When given a chance to address the court, Lavea’i apologized for his action and begged for a chance to return home to seek employment so that he could provide for his children and his parents.
He told the court that he made a stupid mistake by becoming involved with drugs. His decision not only destroyed his family but also ruined his good job as a mechanic for one of the private companies on island.
“Please your honor, grant me one more chance so that I can prove myself to the court. I also want to find a job to pay for my fine and provide for my parents, family and my young children,” Lavea’i said, adding that he’s truly remorseful for what he did and he promised that he would never come back before the court.
“How are you going to provide for your family and children?” the court asked the defendant.
Lavea’i replied, “I need to find a job first to feed my family and start to rebuild my life by not engaging with my old friends who deal with alcohol and illegal drugs.”
The court asked, “Where are you going to find a job?”
The defendant replied, “I will check with my previous employer if they still have a job for me, and if they say no, I will visit other private companies here in American Samoa, who deal with mechanic jobs and many other companies including the local cannery.”
The court told the defendant that the court does not want any sweet talk. The court needs to know what are his plans for the future because the court will not let him go home until he serves his sentence for violating local drugs laws.
The defendant repeated his previous answer about securing gainful employment.
The defense asked the court to sentence his client to a probated sentence and allow him to return home to seek a job to care for his family, pointing to his client never having a criminal record until this incident last year for which he was arrested and convicted.
The Prosecutor however asked the court to sentence Lavea’i to a period of incarceration. According to the government’s attorney, the problem of illegal drugs in the territory is on the rise, and the defendant’s action was very serious where he was caught with illegal drugs, a gun and ammunition inside his vehicle.
In delivering its decision, the court acknowledged the defense attorney’s submission asking the court to consider the defendant’s early admission to the crime against him. However, on the other side of the coin, the case against this defendant is very serious and affects the safety of the people of this community.
The court then sentenced Lavea’i to a term of imprisonment of 5 years and a fine of $5,000. Execution of sentence was suspended and the defendant was placed on probation for five years subject to several conditions.
Lavea’i shall serve a period of detention of 20 months at the TCF, he will be credited for the 16 months he has already served while awaiting the outcome of this matter. The defendant needs to serve 4 more months before he’s released.
Upon release from TCF, the court ordered the defendant to seek and secure gainful employment within 90 days, or report back to the TCF to serve the suspended period of his 5 years imprisonment.
The court also reminded Lavea’i that the court is not considering the condition of departure at this time, however, if he violates any conditions of his probation, the court will look at his case again in the future.
On Mar. 17th, 2020, the defendant was arrested after police officers discovered illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia and ammunition in his vehicle when police pulled him over for a traffic violation. The defendant and a co-defendant Finau Alosio were both charged by the government in this matter.
Lavea’i was arrested after the vehicle he was in was stopped when both he and the driver were observed by police not wearing their seat belts.
Officers informed both men about why they were stopped. When asked for identification, Lavea’i failed to provide any, and was asked to step out of the vehicle.
A small black bag was observed in the vehicle, and Lavea’i was asked who it belonged to and he responded, “It belongs to my brother Finau Alosio (co-defendant in this matter).
When cops asked if they could look inside the bag, Lavea’i said, “Yeah, go ahead.” Once opened, cops observed drugs, drug paraphernalia, ammunition and money. The two men were immediately detained and back-up was called. The vehicle was impounded and the two men were taken in for questioning.
The bag contained cash, ammunition, 7 small cut up straws containing a white crystalline substance (which tested positive for meth); a medium sized baggie containing a white crystalline substance (which tested positive for meth); 25 medium sized empty baggies; 2 cell phones, and several other items (all noted on property forms).
When asked about the drugs and paraphernalia found inside the vehicle, Lavea’i said that the drugs belonged to him and Alosio. He further stated that they were on their way to deliver some of the drugs to other people when officers pulled over their vehicle.
Alosio’s matter was called in court last week where his defense attorney informed the court that they had received discovery and an offer from the government regarding the case. However, he needs more time to discuss notes of the plea agreement with his clients before they file.