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Passenger arrested during traffic stop and accused of drug possession

Just say no to marijuana logo

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man who is on probation for stealing was arrested by police on the allegation he violated local drug laws. Uati Teofilo was a passenger in a van that was pulled over by police last month in Ottoville where two small baggies containing marijuana were found in the pocket of his pants.

The government claims that on the evening of Jan. 23rd, 2021, patrolling police officers observed a white van speeding in front of the Tradewinds Hotel.

Police officers immediately pulled the vehicle over to the side of the road. Four people were inside the vehicle, including Teofilo, who was sitting in the passenger seat.

The driver of the vehicle, Mark Tafa, the owner of the vehicle, provided his valid immigration I.D and driver’s license to officers. The vehicle registration was also valid. Tafa received 3 traffic citations from the officers.

While officers were speaking to the driver, the defendant, Teofilo, opened the passenger’s door and exited the vehicle and walked to the back of the van. An officer instructed Teofilo to stay inside the vehicle but Teofilo continued to walk to the back of the vehicle while at the same time trying to reach inside the rear pocket of his pants.

As the other officer walked over to the area where Teofilo was standing, he immediately took off and ran to the other side of the road and continued fleeing from the officer. Officers, along with the help from the driver of the vehicle and another male passenger chased Teofilo for few minutes before he was apprehended in front of the LDS church in Ottoville.

When asked why he ran away, Teofilo told officers that he was scared and didn’t want to go back to prison. When asked to explain what he was scared off, Teofilo told police officers that he’s on 7 years probation for stealing, and he also has some “weed” in his possession.

A body search was conducted on Teofilo where officers discovered two small baggies containing green leafy substance inside. The green leafy substance was tested and turned out positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active compound in the controlled substance marijuana.

Teofilo told officers he got the two small baggies containing marijuana from his friend for $20, and the reason he ran away was because he didn’t want to get in trouble again.

The driver of the vehicle was also interviewed by police regarding Teofilo’s presence inside his vehicle during the traffic stop. The driver told officers that he only knows Teofilo because he usually hangs around with his younger brother and on the day of the incident, he picked up Teofilo from Vaitogi and they drove to drop off another friend in Kokoland when their vehicle was pulled over by police.

Teofilo is charged with one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, a felony, punishable by term of imprisonment from 5 to 10 years, a fine not more than $20,000, or both, and resisting arrest, a class D felony, punishable by term of imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Bail is set at $5,000.