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Man charged with stealing was caught on tape — Police say he smiled, posed, and then flexed for the camera

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — All three cases against a man facing a total of 7 criminal charges are set for bench trial in May this year.

Absalom David Fanene a.k.a. "Loma" appeared in District Court last Friday for a pretrial conference. He was represented by Public Defender Michael White while prosecuting for the government was Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell.

According to information revealed in court, the charges against Fanene stem from three separate incidents that were filed April 22, 2018; May 8, 2018; and June 18, 2018

For the first case, Fanene is charged with one count of stealing. The second case charges him with two counts of third degree assault, and private peace disturbance. Those two cases are set for bench trial on May 8, 2019.

In the third case, Fanene is charged with public peace disturbance, stealing, and third degree assault. That case is scheduled for a bench trial on May 9, 2019.

Fanene is out on a $300 bond.

For the most recent case, the government claims that on Feb. 22, 2018 an employee of a grocery store in Leone contacted police for assistance, to report that an unknown male was caught on camera, stealing a phone and merchandise from the store.

Police were able to interview the cashier who said he opened the store around 6a.m. that morning and at some point, he fell asleep behind the counter. He said when he woke up, he discovered that his cell phone that was on the counter was missing.

In addition, he noticed that batteries valued at $2.99 and a deodorant were also missing.

The cashier told police that he reviewed the store's surveillance footage and saw a "big, tall Samoan male wearing a hat and black t-shirt taking the items," according to information in the court affidavit.

Investigators reviewed the recording and saw a large Samoan man wearing a straw (laufala) hat enter the store. The man went near the counter where the sleeping cashier was leaned up against. Fanene "then grabbed the cell phone from the counter, looked at the camera, smiled, and posed with arms flexed outwards," according to what police noted in the criminal complaint.

A copy of the surveillance tape was obtained by investigators and re-reviewed at the DPS substation. That's when one of the officers recognized the culprit, and identified him as Loma a.k.a. Absalom David Fanene of Nuuuli and Malaeimi.

The officer was able to positively ID the defendant because he is the "son of former police officer Tavita Fanene, and younger brother of current director of the Dept. of Youth and Women's Affairs (DYWA), Jonathan Fanene," according to court documents.