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Taxi driver enters guilty plea for meth

Territorial Correctional Facility, TCF

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The 42-year-old taxi driver who was charged for unlawful possession of a glass pipe containing methamphetamine after his vehicle was pulled over by police in May of this year pled guilty in High Court.

Aleki Motuga, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $5,000 cash bond, appeared in High Court last week for a Change of Plea hearing.

He was represented by Public Defender Michael White, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

Motuga was originally charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, a felony punishable by not less than five or more than ten years in jail, and a fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $20,000, or both.

However, in a plea agreement with the government last month, Motuga pled guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine. With his guilty plea, Motuga admits that on May 8, 2018 he unlawfully possessed a glass pipe which contained meth.

According to the plea agreement, on May 8, a man called the Tafuna Substation to report something he noticed when a taxi picked him up from Nuuuli and dropped him off at his home in Vaitogi.

The driver of the taxi was later identified as Motuga, the defendant in this case.

The government claims that when the passenger jumped inside the taxi in Nuuuli, the driver immediately asked if he wanted some “stuff”. The passenger asked Motuga what he was referring to. Motuga’s response was, “I got ice (methamphetamine) if you want.”

The passenger was uncomfortable throughout the ride; and immediately after he was dropped off at his house, the man contacted police and alerted them about the situation.

Not long afterwards, police located Motuga’s taxi in Tafuna and immediately pulled him over. After a brief conversation with police, Motuga agreed to a body search and a search of his vehicle. That's when a glass pipe containing methamphetamine was discovered inside the left pocket of Motuga’s pants.

The white crystalline substance inside the glass pipe tested positive for meth.