Search for alleged kidnap victim leads to arrest of two men for “ice”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The police search for a 21-year-old female who was allegedly kidnapped by a man ended when police arrested two other male individuals and later charged them for unlawful possession of illegal drugs.
So’o Savelio and Sharnel Sagote made their initial appearances in District Court last week, where they waived their rights to a preliminary hearing, and wished to bind their cases over to the High Court for further proceedings.
Both defendants were represented by Assistant Public Defender (APD) Anna Wells while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Laura Garvey.
Savelio and Sagote are each charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, a class D felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five nor more than ten years and a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $20,000.
Judge Fiti Sunia established Sagote’s bail in the amount of $10,000 while Savelio is held in custody without bail, due to his illegal immigration status. According to a report from the Immigration office which was provided to the court, Savelio entered American Samoa on a 30-day permit back in November of last year.
If he posts his bond, Sunia ordered Sagote to follow the usual conditions of bail, including not to make any direct or indirect with all the government’s witnesses.
Savelio and Sagote are scheduled to appear in High Court this morning for their arraignment.
The government claims that it was around 9:05 a.m on Nov. 01, 2018 that several police officers responding to a kidnapping report, met up with two male individuals in the area called, “Logotala, and they were later identified as the two defendant’s in this case.
The basis of the original report was that at about 7:00 a.m on the same morning, a woman walked into the Tafuna Substation to report her rental vehicle was allegedly stolen with her 21-year-old niece inside. The woman further told police that the person who stole her rental vehicle is a person by the name of Tautua Letasi, also known as Tautua “Govana Fiti” Letasi.
According to the woman’s statement to police, Letasi took her rental vehicle and her niece to his residence located in a place called Logotala.
Several police officers from other DPS divisions, including detectives from the Vice & Narcotics Unit also responded to the matter and went up to the place called Logotala or “LE FILIFILI”.
While officers were trying to go up to the Logotala area, officers ran into a chain that had been pulled across to stop vehicles from reaching Letasi’s residence at the Logotala area. Sitting by the chain were the two defendants, Savelio and Sagote, who were both sitting on tree stumps.
Two officers exited their police unit to approach the two males, and while on approach a large number of empty baggies commonly used to smoke methamphetamine were observed all over the ground at Savelio’s and Sagote’s feet and general area.
Officers asked the two males individuals if they knew where Letasi was, an Sagote replied that he (Letasi) just went up in a rental vehicle. During the entire interaction, officers noticed that the two males kept fidgeting and putting their hands in and out of their pockets.
Officers asked the two if they is anything in their pockets to which the two replied “no.” Officers then started to ask questions regarding Letasi and also noticed that there was a machete within arm’s length of both of the male individuals. Officers then instructed the two males to remove the machete (by way of tossing it to the side), however the two kept passing the machete between each other.
After a few minutes, one of the officers stepped behind the two and removed the machete himself and threw it to the side.
While officers stepped closer, the two continued what appeared to be trying to drop things out of their pockets. Officers repeated the question to the two males, if there was anything in their pockets. The two answered “no” again.
Officers witnessed that the two males seemed stressed and very nervous, as they could not control their hand movements — repeatedly placing their hands in and out of their pockets — despite officers instructing them not to do that.
Officers then repeated the same question to the two men and both answered once again , “no”. It’s at this time, one of the officers asked it was okay if he checked the inside of their pockets.
The two men then walked towards the officers and raised their hands, saying, “Ia, alu oe, e leai se mea o i totonu o le taga o lo’u ofu.” (Go ahead, there is nothing inside my pockets).
Officers then searched the two men, and allegedly found 2 broken glass pipes commonly used to smoke methamphetamine inside Savelio’s right knee pocket, while a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance was found in his left knee pocket.
For Sagote, officers found in his right front pocket $506 cash, as well as two small baggies containing a white crystalline substance appearing to be methamphetamine. In Sagote’s left front pocket were a number of empty baggies commonly used to package methamphetamine for sale.
Officers also found on Sagote a glass pipe commonly used to smoke methamphetamine containing a white crystalline substance appearing to be methamphetamine.
All evidence, as well as Savelio and Sagote, were transported to the Tafuna Substation for processing. The white crystalline substance tested positive for methamphetamine.
When asked by police regarding the evidence that was found on his possession, Sagote stated that earlier that morning he had a conversation with “Fiti” (Letasi), and Fiti told himthat he had beat up a female, who was the aunty of the 21-year-old niece that was reported missing with the rental vehicle.
Sagote also stated to police that Letasi (after returning from his residence up the hill) gave him a number of baggies containing methamphetamine, and instructed to him to put the chain up and not allow anyone up to his house. Sagote then explained his encounter with the officers and admited knowledge of the items inside his pockets.
Sagote stated that he would use this incident as a lesson to be better. He further explained that this is a regular occurrence for Letasi to leave methamphetamine with him to sell. He stated that the regular amount of methamphetamine that he is given by Letasi to sell is about (8) $50.00 USD baggies which he gets about $400.00 USD to $500.00 USD for. Sagote provided police with a formal written statement.
Defendant Savelio stated to police that the ice found in his possession belonged to Letasi.
All evidence was turned into the Department’s Evidence Custodian.
The government claims that the statement given by Sagote confirmed information received from a confidential informant (CI) regarding Letasi and his involvement in drug dealing.
Information received from the CI in November of 2017 alleged that Letasi supplies drugs that he sells from Logotala with the help of another male individual, who is well known by the CI.
Officers also received information from the same CI around March of 2018, saying that Letasi is the alleged primary supplier of methamphetamine and marijuana to many of the villages on the west side of the island.
Police also received other information from the same CI stating that Letasi recently received a “reload” of his drug supply which is kept and packaged in the lower basement of his residence in Logotala, and that Letasi works closely with other drug dealers, who all share product around in the Logotala area.
Samoa News should pointed out that Letasi was charged by the government for unlawful possession of methamphetamine and marijuana, with the intent to distribute, but his case was declared by the court a mistrial, after the jury was unable to reach an unanimous verdict during his jury trial in September of this year.
Letasi’s trial is re-scheduled for next month.
(Samoa News should point out that court documents do not mention if the police investigated the matter of the alleged kidnapping of the 21-year old girl. )