Vaitogi man released after a traffic stop didn’t get lucky the second time around
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The passenger of a blue truck in which investigators found a bag that allegedly contained a white crystalline substance, a green leafy substance, and drug paraphernalia was released by police after he was interviewed.
However, a week later, Alesana Tikeri, 48, of Vaitogi, was arrested and charged with drug possession. Tikeri was one of three passengers in a different vehicle that was pulled over last week for failing to stop at a stop sign in Nuuuli. He is charged with one count each of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of marijuana — both felonies.
The charges stem from an incident on Feb. 3rd, when police allegedly found two glass pipes containing a white crystalline substance; 3 hand-rolled marijuana joints; and several small plastic baggies on the floor of the police unit where Tikeri was sitting.
He made his initial appearance in District Court last week, where he waived his right to a preliminary examination. His case was bound over to High Court for arraignment on Wednesday, where he entered a not guilty plea. Pretrial conference is May 7, 2020.
Tikeri and four other males were in a truck driven by Aleni Mataese on Feb. 3rd. All of them were taken to the Tafuna Substation after cops found drugs in the truck.
Three men including Tikeri were released and not charged after questioning. Mataese, however, was booked and charged with unlawful possession of drugs after police allegedly found drugs and paraphernalia in a bag that was under the passenger’s seat.
A week later on Feb. 10th, the same patrol officer — along with a female senior cop — spotted a vehicle with light defects in the Tafuna area. The vehicle was stopped and the driver was told why.
The cop recognized the man he was talking to as the same person he released a week earlier following a vehicle stop in which drugs were found. The driver was Afioa’e Panapa. The male cop also recognized the passenger as Tikeri — the two were passengers in Mataese’s vehicle a week before.
Both men were taken in for questioning. Panapa agreed to let one of the cops drive him to the Tafuna SubStation but Tikeri appeared nervous and anxious to leave the scene.
According to the government, Tikeri resisted, saying he needed to buy food for his kids who were waiting at home in Vaitogi — but he later agreed to go with police. Before he jumped into the police unit, cops checked the back seat to ensure everything was clear. Upon arriving the Substation, two officers, who escorted Tikeri, told detectives that 11 empty stamp-sized baggies known for packing meth fell out when Tikeri exited the police unit. When asked, Tikeri said, “I don’t know anything about that.”
Police searched the police unit, where Tikeri had sat, and found a small black pouch on the floor containing two clear glass pipes covered with a white residue; 3 hand-rolled marijuana joints; 26 empty stamp-sized baggies; and 10 empty medium-sized baggies. The white residue from both glass pipes and the green leafy substance from the joints tested positive for meth and marijuana, respectively.
A body search on Tikeri netted 4 empty stamp-sized baggies, a lighter, and a pack of cigarettes. In a verbal and written statement to police, Tikeri said the two glass pipes, the 3 joints, and the paraphernalia did not belong to him. He said the stuff was already in the vehicle when the driver picked him up from home. He added that he called Panapa — who is his friend — to drop him off at the store so he can buy food for his kids.
The driver was released after questioning.
Judge Elvis P. Patea has set bail for Tikeri at $10,000. Conditions of release are standard — if he is able to post bond.
In 2010, Tikeri was convicted of unlawful possession of marijuana, and sentenced to 5 years probation, under a condition that he serve 20 months at the TCF.
Tikeri and his co-defendant, Mark Vineula, were arrested for disturbing the public peace, but police discovered drugs on them: two hand-rolled joints in Tikeri’s pocket, and a baggie containing meth on Vineula.