Traffic stop in Tafuna nets couple after meth & marijuana allegedly found
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man and his partner were arrested by police last month after drugs were discovered inside the vehicle and in their possession. Furthermore, the man is on probation for a drug conviction from last year.
The man, Mark Falefatu and his partner Theresa Manuele made their initial appearances in court last month.
Defendants are each charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, both unclassified felonies, punishable by imprisonment term from 5-10 years, a fine of up to $20,000.
The court established bail for each defendant at $5,000.
On Aug. 19, 2021 at about 8:20.p.m three police officers were patrolling on the Tafuna Public highway near an Asian store compound, officers observed a red Toyota vehicle driving at excessive speed. Officers clocked the sped at 37mph in a 25mph zone.
Officers immediately activated the red and blues lights, made a u-turn and proceeded to initiate a traffic stop. The vehicle stopped in front of the L & K Store in the Tafuna area where an unknown female, later identified as Theresa Manuele (co-defendant), who was sitting in the front passenger’s seat, opened her door and walked towards the Asian store.
Officers instructed Manuele to get back inside the car, but the Manuele refused to cooperate and continued walking fast towards the Asian store. Officers continued to instruct Manuele to get back inside the vehicle before they arrested her but Manuele continued to refuse and kept on walking away from the vehicle that was pulled over by officers.
At one point, Manuele stopped, turned around and asked the police officer why he’s bothering her while she’s heading to the store to buy food for her children. Officers explained to Manuele the reason why they wanted her back to the vehicle, saying they needed to speak to her and the driver of the vehicle.
Manuele still did not comply, instead she turned around and continued walking to the store. Officers followed Manuele and quickly apprehended her and then placed her in a police unit.
It was that same time that the other officer approached the driver of the vehicle, who later identified himself as Mark Falefatu, one of the co-defendant in this matter. As the officer was speaking to Falefatu, he observed four empty small stamp-sized baggies (commonly used to sell meth) lying on the floor under the passenger’s seat.
Falefatu was instructed to exit the vehicle. He was then apprehended.
Officers informed the driver of the reasons for the vehicle stop. Officers then requested the driver for his driver’s license, whereas the driver verbally stated that he did not have it on him. He told officers that he lost his license two months ago and he’s waiting to pick up his new license from the OMV (Office of the Motor Vehicle) in Tafuna.
Officers also asked the driver for any other form of identification and the driver stated that he didn’t have any on him because he didn’t bring his wallet with him. While Falefatu was speaking to officers, the other officer standing on the left side of the vehicle observed the suspect trying to move his left foot.
Furthermore, the same officer observed two empty small stamp size baggies lying on the vehicle’s floor under the driver’s seat.
Officers contacted Fagatogo Police Station requesting a driver’s license check on Mark Falefatu. The Fagatogo Station records system did not find any record of a driver’s license for Falefatu. That when officers informed Falefatu that his vehicle would be impound at the Tafuna Sub-Station.
Officers asked Falefatu about the empty small stamp sized baggies lying on the floor under his seat, Falefatu told officers that the vehicle doesn’t belong to him, it belongs to his partner’s brother.
Officers informed Falefatu that he need to go to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) for further questioning because the vehicle is going to be impounded at the TPS.
Falefatu was patted down by another officer where a hard object was found inside of his pants pocket. Falefatu stopped the officer’s hand and informed him to give him time to empty his pocket. Inside his right pants pocket, there was a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance.
Falefatu emptied his left pants pocket and pulled out four small stamp size baggies containing green leafy substance. After the body search, officers placed Falefatu inside the police unit. Officers also found $560 inside Falefatu’s wallet.
The co-defendant, Manuele was instructed to exit the police unit for a body search. During the body search, officers discovered a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance inside the right pocket of her pants, along with $450 cash found inside her other pocket.
Officers also found two small stamp-sized baggies containing green leafy substance inside Manuele’s rear pocket.
Manuele was placed again inside the police unit by officers and both suspects, along with the vehicle were transported to the TPS for further investigation.
At the TPS, officers conducted an inventory search on the vehicle in the presence of Falefatu. During the inventory search, officers discovered several empty small stamp size baggies (commonly used to sell meth and marijuana) under the driver’s seat.
Furthermore, officer discovered one hand rolled marijuana joint under the driver’s seat, along with another glass pipe containing white crystalline substance.
Both defendants were interviewed by officers in different rooms after they were Mirandized. The female defendant, Manuele wished to make a statement while her boyfriend friend, Falefatu decided to remain silent.
According to Manuele, Falefatu is her long time boyfriend and partner for over ten years. They have two young children who are with her mother at home while they were heading to the store to buy food for dinner. Earlier on that day, they worked at their garden for three hours before they decided to end their work and went to visit a couple in Vaitogi.
When they were about to go home, the man gave her boyfriend (Falefatu) a small black pouch containing drugs and money. It was on their way home when Falefatu gave her a glass pipe containing meth and two stamp sized baggies containing marijuana, along with money while he (Falefatu) keep the rest of the stuff.
Manuele further stated to police that while they were driving, Falefatu instructed her to never offer any statement to police about drugs if something happens to them.
She further stated to police that it was Falefatu’s fault that led to their vehicle being pulled over because he drives too fast.
The white crystalline substance found on both defendant and inside the vehicle were tested and received a positive result for methamphetamine. The green leafy substance found on Falefatu and inside the vehicle were also tested and received a positive result for marijuana.
All evidences were photographed and later turned over to the DPS Evidence Custodian Room.
In August of last year, Falefatu was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment after being convicted of unlawful possession of marijuana. As a condition of his probation, he served 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
His conviction stemed from an incident where he was arrested for disturbing the public peace at his village during a drinking session with other male individuals. Falefatu was arrested and transported to the TPS for questioning.
At the TPS, police saw Falefatu hide something under the table inside the room. He was searched by police and they discovered two hand rolled marijuana cigarettes in his pocket. Falefatu told police that he was selling marijuana joints belonging to his uncle.