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Overstayer with active burglary warrant apprehended during traffic stop

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man from Tafuna is now in custody after he was arrested last month during a traffic stop. To’o Lavea was taken into custody and held for 48 hours after police allegedly discovered a quantity of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia cash inside the vehicle.

The police investigation revealed that Lavea is also an overstayer from Samoa with an expired immigration ID from 2019 and an active warrant from an attempted burglary case last year.

Lavea made his initial appearance in court last month where he was charged in two separate cases.

In the first case, he is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth); one count of unlawful possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute; one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, all unclassified felonies which carry an imprisonment sentences between 5 to 10 years, a fine between $5,000 and $20,000, or both.

In the second case, Lavea is charged with one count of attempted burglary, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a $5,000 fine or both.

Bail for this case is set at $5,000.


According to the government, a Toyota pick-up with expired license tags and no license plate light was stopped by a police officer on July 10th at around 6a.m in the Vaitogi area. Lavea was in the vehicle with three individuals — two males and one female.

When asked to provide his driver’s license, Lavea did — however, it had expired 4 years ago. When the police officer checked the light of the rear license plate, he discovered that the sticker on the plate did not match the number on the license plate.

The officer contacted the Central Police Station Dispatcher for Registration and Ownership information, and the status of the vehicle's license plate and tags.

The information provided noted that the license plate expired in August 2019. The officer cited Lavea and told him the vehicle would be impounded at the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS).

Police conducted a body search of the four to make sure they were not in possession of anything illegal.

The three passengers were clear and later released by investigators to go home, however, when police searched the defendant, they allegedly discovered a medium sized baggie inside the right pocket of his pants. Inside the baggie were 5 hand rolled joints containing green leafy substance.

Police conducted an inventory search on the impounded vehicle and Lavea was present during the search.

During the search, police found a yellow envelope under the passenger’s seat and Lavea immediately told police that it belonged to his uncle who owns the vehicle.

Police opened the yellow envelope and allegedly found a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance, and a cut-up straw with residue of white crystalline substance inside. In addition, police found inside the bag cash and drug paraphernalia.

As the search continued to the rear of the vehicle, Lavea stated to police that the vehicle does not belong to him, but to his uncle who is in stuck in the States due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Before Lavea was transported to the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) police received a phone call from a man in Nu’uuli saying that his Toyota pick-up had been stolen from his house while he was at his plantation two days ago. The caller further stated to police that the only person who could do that was a guy by the name of “Mikey”, a mechanic from the Tafuna area.

One of the passengers of the vehicle agreed to speak with police regarding the incident. According to the passenger’s statement, he, along with his two cousins caught a ride with Lavea in Leone and they knew nothing about a bag with drugs inside because Lavea didn’t have a bag with him when he picked them up.

When asked about the drugs, Lavea eventually admitted to police that everything found inside the back bag including drugs and ammunition found belonged to him. He did not wish to reveal further information to police regarding the incident.

It was during the interview that police discovered that Lavea had an active arrest warrant from an attempted burglary case from the beginning of last year.