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Probationer with warrants dating back to 2018 arrested on multiple charges

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man accused of assaulting the owner of a store in the Tafuna area and then taking off with an iPhone and a red wallet containing over $600 cash was arrested by police last month pursuant to an arrest warrant from the court.

It was after Valoaga Lafai was arrested that police discovered he has an active arrest warrant from 2018 where he’s accused of stealing items from a warehouse in Nuuuli.

Lafai, who is on probation in District Court made his initial appearance before Judge Elvis P. Patea last month where he was served with copies of two separate cases against him.

In the first case, Lafai, 33, is charged with one count of robbery in the first degree; two counts of stealing, both felonies; along with one count of 3rd degree assault and one count of public peace disturbance (PPD), both misdemeanors.

In the second case, Lafai is charged with one count of 1st degree burglary and one count of stealing, both class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a $5,000 fine or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment for each count; along with a class A misdemeanor charge of 3rd degree property damage.

Judge Patea set bail for Lafai at $25,000.

The defense attorney asked the court to reduce Lafai’s bail to $5,000 saying that the two cases filed by the government against his client are just allegations and Lafai is innocent until proven guilty.

The defense attorney further stated that Lafai is a family man who provides for his elderly parents, wife and 3 young children. Lafai has a strong tie to the community and he’s also not a flight risk. He told the court that Lafai’s family really needs him to support them financially.

The prosecutor on the other hand strongly opposed the defense’s motion. She told the court that the defendant’s action was very serious and he’s also a danger to the community and a flight risk too. Police had been looking for him since 2018 but he was nowhere to be found.

The court agreed with the government and denied the defense’s motion.

Lafai’s case was bound in the High Court after he waived his rights to a preliminary hearing two weeks ago. His first pretrial conference is now scheduled for June 18th at 9 a.m.


The government claims that on Feb. 26, 2020, around 8:39 p.m, the owner of an Asian store in the Tafuna area called the Tafuna Substation, regarding a male individual who allegedly stole his iPhone and his wallet containing over $600 cash.

Police responded to the call and met up with the owner, where he explained to police what happened.

 According to the victim’s statement to police, he was sweeping up the store when a male individual entered and went to the back of the store. The man was later identified as Lafai, the defendant in this matter.

A few moments later, Lafai walked up to the cash register with items in his hands and placed them on the counter. According to the owner of the store, Lafai gave him a  $100 bill to pay for his shopping. The owner did not have enough change inside his register so he reached for his wallet that was on the shelf underneath the cash register and he gave Lafai his change.

The victim told police he’d noticed that Lafai was paying careful attention to his actions, especially where he pulled his wallet from, but he didn’t take any action because the defendant left the store after he was given his change.

One hour later, Lafai walked back inside the store at the same time as another male individual. Lafai walked straight to the back of the store and a few moments later, he returned with 2 large beers and two cups of noodles. He paid for his shopping and then exited the store.

Immediately after Lafai’s exit, the second man who was still inside the store called out to the owner for help, because he wanted to know the price of one of the items he intended to buy.

The victim told police that he was playing with his iPhone when the second male individual called out to him. He placed his iPhone on the counter and walked to the back to assist the man.

As he was climbing up on a shelf to reach what the other man wanted, he saw Lafai quickly enter the front door and walk to the cash register. That’s when he jumped down and ran to the front in an effort to keep Lafai from taking anything.

According to the victim’s statement, as he ran to the front, Lafai turned around and pushed him in his chest, causing him to fall to the floor. Lafai then grabbed the owner’s iPhone that was on the counter and then reached down and took his wallet before he ran outside and disappeared.

The other man who was still inside the store ran up and assisted him and that’s when he called police for help.

The victim was able to show police footage of the incident that took place at the shop, including Lafai loitering outside the store before re-entering and allegedly committing the crime.

The victim told police that he suspected the second male who was inside the store when Lafai stole his wallet and iPhone was helping Lafai. Police interviewed the second man who stated that he had nothing to do with the suspect’s actions.

He told police that as he was going into the store, the suspect was also making his way into the store. And, after the alleged incident occurred, he said he ran to the front to help the victim by pulling him up off the floor and checking whether he was okay.

When officers went to look for the suspect that night, their search was unsuccessful — Lafai was nowhere to be found.

However, two weeks after the alleged incident, a female who lives near the area came forward and told police that Lafai was now living with a friend near the Iliili Golf Course.

Police went there and were able to apprehend him.

When questioned about the alleged incident, Lafai immediately admitted to the allegation. When police questioned Lafai regarding his active arrest warrant from a burglary case two years ago, where he allegedly stole several items, Lafai denied any knowledge of the case.