Routine traffic stop leads to discovery of guns and lots of cash
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A routine traffic stop by a DPS officer last Friday night led to a stunning discovery of firearms, ammunition, and over $8,000 in cash.
The driver of the vehicle was immediately arrested and transported to the Tafuna Substation for further questioning.
Fa’afetai Jr Lefatia made his initial appearance before District Court Judge Fiti Sunia yesterday morning. He is represented by Assistant Public Defender Anna Wells, while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell.
Lefatia faces charges of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), and 2 counts of unlawful possession of prohibited firearms — all class A misdemeanors — punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000 or both.
Judge Sunia established Lefatia’s bond at $1,000.
If he posts a bond, the court has ordered that Lefatia remain law abiding, not leave or attempt to leave the territory, and he must surrender his travel documents to the government's attorney. He is also prohibited from making any direct or indirect contact with police officers or any other government witnesses.
Lefatia is scheduled to appear in court next month for his pretrial conference.
According to the government's case, it was last Friday that cops observed a vehicle heading west at a high rate of speed.
Cops followed the vehicle, turned their sirens on, and ordered the driver to pull over.
The driver complied and did what he was told.
Two police officers walked over to the vehicle informed the driver of why he was pulled over. The driver was later identified at Fa’afetai Jr Lefatia, the defendant in this case.
Another male was sitting in the passenger's seat during the stop.
According to police during their conversation with Lefatia, they could smell the strong odor of alcohol emitting from his breath.
When asked by officers, Lefatia allegedly admitted that he did consume alcohol before he got behind the wheel, heading over to visit a friend.
Lefatia and the male passenger were both ordered to step outside of the vehicle and the two were transported to the Tafuna Substation, where a search of the vehicle was carried out.
It was during the vehicle search that police allegedly discovered — in the backseat — a .357 magnum and a .22 pistol.
This is in addition to over $8,000 in cash.
When confronted by police, Lefatia refused to make a statement.
The male passenger who was with Lefatia was served with a copy of an outstanding arrest warrant from the court.
Both men were booked and later transported to the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) to await their initial appearances in court yesterday morning.
An onlooker told Samoa News, “It’s amazing how something as simple as a traffic stop can lead police to crack a lot of criminal cases like this one. A lot of people with records for unlawful possession of illegal drugs and firearms are behind bars because of traffic stops. These traffic stops really help police officers in finding people with criminal records and backgrounds.”
Based on the amount of cash that was allegedly discovered inside the vehicle, police are suspecting that there may be link to illegal activities — including the sale of illegal drugs.