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No lights on license plate lead to drug bust

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The driver of a truck in which investigators allegedly found two medium sized baggies containing white crystalline substance and drug paraphernalia has been arrested and charged with unlawful possession of drugs.

Tavita Isaia made his initial appearance in District Court last week. He later waived his right to a preliminary examination and his case has been bound over to High Court for arraignment today, Aug. 18th, 202 at 9:00a.m.

Isaia, 52, is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, both felonies punishable by imprisonment of 5-10 years, a fine between $5,000-$20,000 or both.

Bail is set at $10,000.


Isaia and another male, identified as Taavili Reupena were in a truck driven by a third male individual by the name of Willie Matau when patrol cops pulled them over in Petesa on Aug 3, 2020 for having no lights over the license plate. The driver, Matau is on probation for a stealing conviction from 4 years ago.

When asked for his driver’s license, the driver told police he did not have any form of identification on him and the vehicle belonged to his older brother. It was later confirmed that the vehicle license expired in Jan. 2016, and the driver did not have a driver’s license. Further, he’s an overstayer as his immigration I.D expired 3 years ago.

As the officer was speaking to the driver, he noticed Isaia moving around and trying to reach into his back pocket, at the same time trying to conceal something with his left foot. Isaia was sitting at the passenger’s seat. When Isaia moved his feet, the officer saw part of a hand rolled joint under Isaia’s foot.

That is when officers instructed all three men to exit the vehicle. The driver was told that the vehicle would be impounded at the Tafuna Police Station (TPS) and all of them taken in for questioning. All three men including the defendant agreed. Isaia looked nervous and he tried to walk to the back of the vehicle but was stopped by one of the officers and instructed to get inside the police unit.

Before the three men were transported to the TPS for questioning, police conducted a body search on each of them. Nothing was found on the driver and the other male passenger. However, police discovered two medium baggies containing white crystalline substance in Isaia’s pocket, along with one medium sized baggie containing green leafy substance.

When asked about the drugs discovered in his possession, Isaia responded by saying that he found the drugs inside the truck when he jumped inside, he then picked them up and put them in his pocket.

Isaia further told police that he was suspicious that the drugs belonged to the driver of the vehicle, and his only mistake was he picked it up and put it inside his pocket.

A search of the vehicle discovered a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance and half of a hand rolled joint containing green leafy substance. The glass pipe and half joint were under the passenger’s seat where Isaia was seated.

When asked about the glass pipe discovered inside his vehicle, the driver told investigators that he knows nothing about the drugs. He said everything belonged to Isaia.

According to the driver, he was at his house when Isaia came over and asked him for a favor, if he (driver) could transport him to the store to pick up his shopping. The driver told investigators that when Isaia returned from the store, he saw him holding something in his hand. Isaia then put the thing that was in his hand in his pant’s pocket.

The driver was cited for several traffic citations.

The driver and the other male passenger were later released while Isaia was booked and transported to the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).

(It is unknown at this time what was done about the driver being an overstayer.)