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Overstayer with two names back in custody, can't get his story straight

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man with two different names was remanded back to custody last Friday and is scheduled to appear in court again tomorrow.

Sooane "Filipo" Taafua, 37, appeared in District Court last Friday for a pretrial conference. He is charged with a single count of private peace disturbance.

He has been held in custody at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) without bail, due to his immigration status. When Taafua appeared in court last Tuesday, Feb. 12, there was no discovery, and the Immigration Office could not confirm his status — at the time.

A continuance was then set for last Friday, where an update was provided.

According to an Immigration officer who was present in court, Taafua entered the territory on a 14-day permit June 30, 2016 and he's been here since. A 'movement profile' produced by Immigration revealed that Taafua's name, as noted in his passport, is Valentino Sam Chong.

Presiding Judge Elvis P. Patea asked prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell how the government got the name Sooane Taafua.

Mitchell said he isn't sure.

Judge Patea was not satisfied with the response, asking how the police got the name when they filed the report. "I'm not aware…" Mitchell answered.

"Maybe you need to make it your business to be aware," Judge Patea fired back.

The judge said the proceedings will not move forward until the government makes a motion to amend the information, to reflect the defendant's legal name in court filings. Mitchell immediately made a verbal motion and it was granted.

When asked about his passport, Ah Chong said it was given to a male immigration officer, and he identified him by name in court.

"That name means nothing to me," Judge Patea said. After court proceedings, when the Immigration officer who was in court asked Sam Chong about his passport, the defendant gave her a different name, not the name he provided in court.

"He's been here since 2016 and it took an arrest for him to come to light," Judge Patea said.

Since his initial appearance in late December 2018, Ah Chong has been in court a handful of times. And each time, a continuance was ordered because of the lack of a police report, discovery, and confirmation of his immigration status.

This time, the court hopes to get the matter resolved by Feb. 20th, a day before the Lady Naomi is expected to set sail for independent Samoa.

Judge Patea wants Ah Chong's sponsor located, as he will be responsible for paying the defendant's one-way ticket back to his home country.

Samoa News understands that Ah Chong has continuously lied to Immigration officers and police about his marital status, the identity of his parents, and even his own name. He claims he entered the territory to attend his father's funeral back in 2016; however, as of press time, even that could not be confirmed.

Samoa News however has been informed that the sponsor named on Ah Chong's entry permit passed away more than a year ago.