Three men picked up in traffic stop face drug charges; Driver claims it was the other guys
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — All three occupants of a black pickup pulled over by police last month were arrested and charged after drugs were discovered in the vehicle. They are William Savea, the driver, and Peleti Ie’u and Lole Finau — passengers.
All three defendants are each charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) and one count of unlawful possession of meth with the intent to distribute, both felonies, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years, nor more than twenty years, a fine up to $20,000, or both.
Finau is also charged with one count of prohibited place of consumption, a class A misdemeanor.
Bail for each of the three is set at $15,000.
During their initial appearances, Savea wished to exercise his constitutional rights to a preliminary examination (PX). Ie’u and Finau waived their rights to a PX and they appeared in High Court last week for arraignment where they each entered a not guilty plea to the charges against them.
Pretrial conference for both Ie’u and Finau are now scheduled for December of this year.
On Sept. 08, 2021 at about 12a.m, Vice and Narcotics Unit (VNU) was called to a matter at the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) after patrol officers stopped a vehicle and later discovered drugs.
Detectives arrived at the TPS and met up with patrol officers who initiated the traffic stop and they were interviewed by detectives from the VNU regarding the alleged incident.
One of the traffic officers told investigators that they stopped a black pickup near the TPS with a nontransparent material upon the rear windows. As they approached the vehicle, they noticed two unopened beer cans between the driver and the front passenger.
As they chatted with the driver, they heard a voice in the back seat. The officer then instructed the driver to roll down the back windows. As the driver rolled down the back windows, officers observed an open beer container near the male passenger.
The officer then instructed the male passenger to exit the vehicle. Upon exiting the vehicle, officers confiscated the open beer can and observed a stamp sized baggie containing white crystalline substance underneath the front passenger. Officers then detained all three individuals and escorted them to the TPS for further investigation.
The male passenger was later identified as Lole Finau, a co-defendant in this matter. The driver was identified as William Savea, also a co-defendant, and the another male passenger was identified as Peleti Ie’u, the third co-defendant.
While at the TPS, Finau was booked for possession of an unsealed container of alcohol in a moving vehicle; and during a body pat down, officers discovered a small black pouch inside his t-shirt front pocket. Discovered inside the black pouch were a glass pipe, commonly used to smoke meth, a medium simoi baggie containing several small stamp sized baggies (15-count), medium plastic baggies containing white crystalline substance, as well as $270 cash.
Upon detaining Ie’u, officers observed him with a black backpack. Further investigation into the backpack disclosed a small clear container containing 6 small stamp size baggies, 15 empty and 6 filled with white crystalline substance, and $114 cash.
Also found was a bag of straws and a propane torch. When asked who it belonged to, Ie’u said that it was Savea’s backpack given to him when they were pulled over.
A search of the vehicle was conducted by investigators at the TPS who later discovered a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance inside and a small stamp sized baggie filled with the crystalline substance inside a compartment near the driver. When asked about the items, Savea informed investigators that it was Ie’u’s, but was given to him when they were stopped by police.
Savea further stated to investigators that he didn’t know anything about the drugs inside the vehicle but when they were pulled over by police, Ie’u asked him to hide the stuff because he didn’t want to get into trouble.
Ie’u, Finau and Savea were all Mirandized. Ie’u and Finau informed the police they wished to remain remain silent. Savea stated the he understood his rights and he agreed to make a statement.
According to Savea’s statement to investigators, he was at his girlfriend’s house in the Tafuna area when his friend Peleti [Ie’u] contacted him asking if he could pick him up from his uncle’s house in Vaitogi. Ie’u further told Savea that he (Savea) needed to hurry up and pick him up because he (Ie’u) wanted to see his friend at his place at the landfill before it’s too late. Savea parked in front of an a store in Futiga while Ie’u walked to the landfill and later returned back with something hidden in his t-shirt, along with another male individual who was later identified as Lole Finau, another co-defendant in this matter.
All three were later booked and transported to the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) and confined.
Testing of the white crystalline substance was conducted by senior detectives of the VNU and it yielded positive for meth.
During the PX last week, the government’s only witness testified that drugs were found in a vehicle during a traffic stop last month. Savea was the driver of the vehicle. However, according to the witness’s testimony, no drugs were found on him.
In his testimony, Sgt. Lafi stated that on Sept. 08, 2021 at about 12a.m, Vice and Narcotics Unit (VNU) was called to a matter at the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) after patrol officers stopped a vehicle and later discovered drugs.
During cross examination, it came to light that no drugs were ever found on the defendant however, in cross examination it was noted that drugs were discovered in the vehicle that the defendant Savea was driving.
The defense attorney asked the court to dismiss the case against his client. He stated the government didn’t present any evidence to prove that drugs were found in his client’s possession. He further stated that based on the witness’s testimony, the drugs found in the bag belong to another co-defendant.
Judge Tauiliili-Langkilde said the court is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to bind the case against the defendant to High Court for further proceedings.
Savea appeared in High Court last week where he entered a not guilty plea to the charges against him. His pretrial conference is set for December.