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Former cop now drug suspect alleged to have flown the coop

[SN file photo]

One of the three men arrested during raids by detectives of the DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit last Thursday is nowhere to be found.

Samoa News understands that Steve Tuatoo, a former police officer, was released from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) after the 48-hour holding period expired, and according to reliable sources, Tuatoo has already departed the territory.

Efforts to obtain a comment from the Department of Public Safety yesterday were unsuccessful. Samoa News sought a comment via email from Police Commissioner, Le’i Sonny Thompson who is off island for the PTCN conference in Hawai’i but there was no response at press time.

Samoa News also tried reaching out to Acting Commissioner, Falana’ipupu Taase Sagapolutele for a comment but efforts were unsuccessful.

Sources tell Samoa News that Tuatoo, along with Cody Christian Woods and Taisia Lemalie, were arrested by police last week after a string of raids in Taputimu, Alofau, and on the main road, and all three men were taken into custody and held for 48 hours, to await the filing of criminal charges against them.

After the 48-hour window expired, Tuatoo was released from custody while the other two men were still behind bars. An employee at TCF told Samoa News that Tuatoo was released because the TCF never received any communication from the Attorney General's Office, about Tuatoo’s situation.

In the meantime, Samoa News has received numerous reports that Tuatoo allegedly left the island, immediately after he was released from jail last weekend.

During a press conference this week, Falana’ipupu confirmed that Tuatoo was arrested during the early morning hours last Thursday, after police executed a search warrant on two homes, including Tuatoo’s home in Alofau.

It was also confirmed during the press conference that all three men were slapped with criminal charges and had to make their initial appearance in the District Court this past Monday. However, Tuatoo never appeared in District Court.

It's believed Tuatoo, who was a sworn police officer for many years, was never served an arrest warrant.

During last Thursday's raids, police confiscated items including a large quantity of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value between $50,000 and $55,000; marijuana with a street value between $20,000 and $25,000; 3 guns (12-gauge shotgun, 357 magnum, and a pellet gun - all fully loaded); 144 bullets for the 357 magnum; various stolen items; and drug paraphernalia.

$54,003 in cash was confiscated from the home in Taputimu, in addition to $459 found on Woods.

Woods, whose bail is set at $200,000, is scheduled to appear in court next Monday for a preliminary examination hearing, while Lemalie’s PX hearing is set for next Wednesday. His bail is set at $5,000. Both men are still in custody, unable to post bond.