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Woman says her ex-husband stole her car — he claims it belongs to him

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man with two prior convictions over a decade ago is back in court again on a new allegation that he stole his ex-wife's vehicle. When pulled over by patrol officers last month, the suspect, Malaki Tamati told officers the vehicle belonged to him not his girlfriend. He told police that he bought the vehicle two years ago.

When asked to provide any photo identification, including a driver’s license, Tamati told police that he forgot his wallet at home where he had all of his photo identifications.

Due to the situation, police told Tamati that they needed to go to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) to discuss the issue and that his vehicle would be impounded.

At first, Tamati refused, telling police that they had no right to take him to the TPS along with his vehicle, and that they needed an arrest warrant. However, after further discussion with police, Tamati agreed to go to the TPS. The vehicle was also impounded.

The government claims that on the morning of Sept. 14, a woman from Futiga contacted the TPS for assistance to locate her vehicle, which she said was stolen by her husband, the defendant in this case.

According to the woman, it’s been 6 months since they separated after he left her to stay with another woman.

The woman further stated to police that she suspected that he allegedly stole her vehicle to sell drugs because he’s a drug dealer.

According to the government, the stolen vehicle was registered under the name, Catherine Tamati, the defendant’s estranged wife.

About two hours later, officers on the Iliili public highway observed a pick-up that matched the description of the reported stolen vehicle speeding and pulled it over.

The vehicle was driven by a male, who was later identified as Malaki Tamati, the defendant in this matter.

Officers later met up with the defendant’s girlfriend/ wife at the TPS, where she provided officers with a document, which confirmed that the vehicle is registered in her name.

The defendant on the other hand continued to claim that the vehicle belonged to him not his girlfriend/ wife. He further stated to police that he bought the vehicle two years ago and it was also registered under his name. He told police that he did not know the time the vehicle’s registration was changed.

After further discussion regarding the matter, Tamati was taken into custody and charged with stealing.

Before he was taken into custody, he was patted down and during the body search police officers found a small baggie containing green leafy substance, along with a glass pipe (commonly used to smoke meth) containing white crystalline substance in Tamati’s pocket.

Tamati refused to make a statement to police when he was asked about the illegal drugs.

Tamati made his initial appearance in court last month.

The government charged Tamati in two different cases.

In the first case, he is charged with one count of stealing, a class C felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a $5,000 fine or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal the twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment.

In the second case, Tamati is charged with one count of unlawful possession of marijuana and one count of unlawful possession of meth, both felonies.

Bail was set at $10,000.

Preliminary examination is scheduled for next week.