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Taxi driver pleads guilty to possession of meth

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 42-year-old taxi driver accused of unlawful possession of a glass pipe containing methamphetamine has pled guilty.

Ben Lauofo appeared in High Court last week for his Change of Plea. He was represented by Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney Laura Garvey.

Lauofo, who was released on a $5,000 surety bond was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a class D felony punishable by not less than or more than 10 years, and a fine between $5,000 and $20,000.

But a plea agreement with the government, allowed Lauofo to plead guilty to a lesser amended charge, a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

By his guilty plea, Lauofo admits that on Mar. 26, 2019, he unlawful possessed a glass pipe containing methamphetamine. He further admits that his action on that day was without legal justice.

The government claimed that on the day of the incident, a female passenger contacted the Tafuna Substation for assistance regarding the defendant’s taxi which she caught that morning. She told police that the defendant’s taxi picked her from the Pago Pago International Airport in Tafuna and dropped her at the Laufou Shopping Center in Nuuuli.

On their way to the Laufou Shopping Center, the female passenger told police that Lauofo stopped his taxi at Lions Park beside another taxi. Lauofo exited his taxi and went to the other taxi and spoke with the driver for about 10 minutes.

Lauofo then came back to his taxi with something in his left hand. The female passenger noticed that the object in Lauofo’s hand looked like a glass pipe. Lauofo hid the object under his seat before they left the park.

After Lauofo dropped the female passenger at the Laufou Shopping Center, the passenger wrote down his taxi’s license plate number, before she called the police.

Police spotted Lauofo’s taxi in front of an Asian store in Nuuuli, and they approached him and asked if he could come with them to the Tafuna Substation to discuss something important.

After a brief conversation with police, Lauofo agreed to a  search of his vehicle. During the search, police discovered a glass pipe containing methamphetamine hidden under the driver’s seat. When police officers asked Lauofo what was inside the glass pipe, the defendant replied in Samoa, “o le aisa” (it’s methamphetamine).