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Two men jailed in a case involving a stolen vehicle, an assault, and drugs

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The alleged fight at a mechanic shop in Tafuna over a stolen vehicle has landed two men in jail, and both appeared in court this week for their initial appearances.

Eletise Okesene, 48, is charged with one count of stealing, one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, and resisting arrest. His co-defendant Matthew Laupepa is charged with one count of second degree assault and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana.

Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell, while Assistant Public Defender Bob Stuart is representing both defendants.

Okesene’s bond is set at $10,000 and Laupepa at $5,000. Preliminary examination for both men is Oct. 4th at 10:30a.m.


Around 5:12p.m on Sept. 20th, a woman, later identified as Laupepa’s wife, called the Tafuna Substation to report that her husband was allegedly assaulted by Okesene.

According to the woman, she was inside their home feeding her elderly mother when she heard a loud bang coming from her husband’s mechanic shop. She thought that maybe her husband was just working.

However, after a few moments, she said she heard the same loud bang coming from the same direction. She also heard people talking loud. The woman told police she went to check on her husband and when she opened the back door, she saw her husband lying on the ground while Okesene was punching him.

She said she yelled at Okesene and told him to stop, but Okesene continued to throw punches at her husband’s face. Another male who was with Okesene jumped in and pulled Okesene to the other side.

That’s when the victim’s wife called police for assistance.

Several officers responded to the call and were able to interview several witnesses. EMS personnel also arrived and treated the victim’s injuries.

Okesene was handcuffed and placed in a police unit for safety reasons, because at this point, the victim’s male relatives were now making their way to the scene after seeing police units in the area.

In his statement to police, Okesene said he went to Laupepa’s mechanic shop to look for his brother’s blue truck, which was stolen from his mechanic shop in Aua two months ago, and he had found out that it was Laupepa who stole the vehicle.

Okesene told police he peacefully approached Laupepa for a chance to discuss the matter, but Laupepa yelled at him to get off his land before he calls his boys to remove him. Okesene said he then asked Laupepa why he had stolen his brother’s vehicle, and Laupepa responded, “Your brother owed me $2,400 that’s why I took his vehicle, but I didn't steal it.”

According to Okesene, it was Laupepa who started the fight by throwing a metal object at him, which missed him and hit an old vehicle parked outside the shop. At that time, Okesene walked over and punched Laupepa in the face.

Okesene allegedly admitted to police that he also kicked Laupepa in the back and head while he was on the ground, causing more injuries. Before Okesene was interviewed, investigators conducted a body search, to make sure he wasn’t carrying any weapons.

However, one hand-rolled marijuana joint was found inside Okesene’s pants pocket, which he said he got from a friend in Vaitogi. Aside from the alleged assault, Okesene told police he wanted to file a criminal complaint against Laupepa for stealing his brother’s vehicle.

Laupepa was interviewed by police after he was discharged from the LBJ Hospital the same evening the alleged incident took place. When asked about the stolen vehicle, Laupepa admitted that he stole the vehicle from Okesene’s shop in Aua because he wanted to use the engine for an old vehicle that has been at his shop for over a year.

Laupepa told police that it was his actions that sparked the fight between him and Okesene.

When asked to stop by to the Substation for further questioning, Laupepa refused and told police that he’s the victim in this case, not a suspect. As cops tried to cuff Laupepa, he resisted by pulling his hands away and trying to walk away. He was eventually placed under arrest and taken into custody.

During a body search, officers discovered  on Laupepa one small baggie containing a green leafy substance, and one hand rolled marijuana joint. Investigators claim that they could smell a strong odor of alcohol emitting from Laupepa during questioning.