Traffic violations net more alleged drug offenders
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 45-year-old man, who was pulled over for a traffic violation, is being criminally charged, after police allegedly found illegal drugs in his possession.
When Falaula Leota appeared in court two weeks ago for a traffic citation, he was ordered to return to court on the following day for a status hearing.
When Leota showed up in court, he was served with an arrest warrant, attached to an affidavit supporting two felony charges against him.
Leota is charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth); and unlawful possession of marijuana, both felonies, punishable by a jail term of 5-10 years and a fine of $5,000- $20,000.
If he is able to post a $5,000 bond, Leota is ordered to comply with standard conditions, including not making any direct or indirect contact with the government’s witnesses, and not leaving the territory.
The government claims that around 7 p.m, on May 12, 2021, police received information regarding a person named “MAT” who had just threatened two brothers in front of a store in the Faga’alu area by telling them that he would kill both of them if they continued to spread rumors about him (Leota) selling illegal drugs in the village.
MAT is the nickname for Falaula Leota, the defendant in this matter.
According to the individual who called police, Leota was sitting in the passenger seat while a female was the driver of the vehicle. The caller further gave police all the information about the vehicle, including the color, plate number and the type of vehicle.
After the vehicle was spotted and pulled over by police, Leota was immediately placed under arrest and transported to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) for questioning. Leota tried to resist but officers were able to control him and make the arrest.
Before Leota was transported to the police station, police conducted the standard body search, which allegedly netted the police two small baggies containing a white crystalline substance in Leota’s left pocket, and inside his right pocket two hand rolled marijuana cigarettes were found.
When questioned by police, Leota admitted that the illegal drugs belonged to him. He told police that he bought these illegal drugs from a man who was selling drugs in Vaitogi two days prior.
Regarding the allegation that he made threatening remarks to two men, Leota admitted it and told police that he was disappointed when the two brothers spread rumors in their village saying that he was selling drugs from his home.
Leota told investigators that he never sells drugs. He only uses them to give him strength to do his hard work.
In 2010, Leota was convicted of unlawful possession of marijuana, and subsequently sentenced to 5 years probation under the condition that he serve 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF). His probation term ended last year.
The driver of a vehicle pulled over by police last month for a traffic violation was arrested and charged for violating local drug laws.
The government alleges that on July 16, 2021 about 10:21p.m, two police officers patrolling the Tafuna public highway pulled over a gray SUV for speeding and the driver was also not wearing a seatbelt.
Officers approached the driver and informed him why he was stopped. The driver of the vehicle was later identified as William Tavita, the defendant in this case.
Upon speaking with the defendant, the officer observed that the defendant had a red face and bloodshot eyes.
The officer then asked the man if he had been drinking and questioned him about how many drinks he had had and what time he finished drinking. The defendant responded by saying that he only had two large bottles of beer and he had finished them an hour prior to the vehicle stop. The driver further told police that he didn’t want to do a field sobriety because he believed that he would fail the test.
Police informed Tavita that his vehicle would be impounded and he was also under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Before the defendant and his vehicle were transported to the TPS for further investigation, police conducted a body search. During the search, police found a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance inside the defendant’s right pocket.
An inventory search was also conducted on the vehicle where police found half a marijuana joint under the driver’s seat.
When questioned about the illegal drugs found in his possession and also inside his vehicle, Tavita told police that the illegal drugs belonged to him. He told police that he got the glass pipe and the marijuana joint from a friend during a drinking session at the Lions Park in Tafuna.
Tavita made his initial appearance in court last month.
He is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, both felonies.