Another day — another traffic stop and another drug bust
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man is now charged with violating local drug laws after police officers discovered meth in his vehicle during a traffic stop in Tafuna over the weekend due to the vehicle having two different license plates on it.
The government charged Ualesi Tagaloa with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a felony punishable by imprisonment of five to ten years, a fine of up to $20,000 or both.
Tagaloa made his initial appearance in court last month. Bail is set at $5,000, surety bond.
The government claims that on Oct. 24th about 6.09p.m, two police officers conducted a traffic stop in front of an Asian store in the Tafuna area after officers spotted a truck with no current tag on its front license plate. Following it, the officers then discovered that the truck had a different license plate on the back and the license plate light was out.
Officers requested the Dispatcher for a quick check on the status of the two license plates, with the Dispatcher stating via radio transmission that the plate in the front was expired.
They then tried to stop the truck, but it continued to drive away fast, ignoring officers’ instructions to stop, with it finally stopping in front of an Asian store in the Tafuna area.
Officers approached the driver of the vehicle to explain to the purpose of the stop. Two male individuals were inside the vehicle, and the driver was later identified as Ualesi Tagaloa, the defendant in this case.
When asked about the reason he refused to stop his vehicle, Ualesi told officers he did not want to go to jail.
Officers asked Ualesi who told him that he’s going to jail, and Ualesi said he was involved in an assault case over two years ago where he and his male cousin assaulted another man during a drinking session.
Officers told the defendant his vehicle had two different license plate numbers, with the front one expired, while the one in the back belonged to a different car. The defendant told police that he understood why he was being pulled over. The defendant also did not possess a valid driver’s license.
The two officers then impounded the vehicle and transported it to the Tafuna Police Substation, where one of the officers started issuing citations to the defendant for the violations.
An inventory search of the vehicle was conducted with the defendant present as witness to the search. During the inventory search, police observed a red plastic baggie inside a lighter socket next to the steering wheel and they showed it to the defendant and he just shook his head left and right and said he doesn’t know anything about it.
Officers brought the plastic baggie out from the lighter socket and showed it again to the defendant, who again shook his head, indicating that he didn’t know anything about it.
The officer, who discovered the plastic baggie, found it contained a white crystalline substance inside. He then handed the baggie to a police lieutenant, who contacted the DPS Vice and Narcotic and K9 Unit for assistance to further the investigation. The search was stopped at that time to await their arrival.
Officers of VNU took over the investigation and the white crystalline substance that was inside the plastic baggie tested positive for methamphetamine.
The defendant was Mirandized and wished to make a verbal statement about the incident.
According to the defendant, he placed his own vehicle license plate number on his brother’s vehicle so he could just move the car to his uncle’s place in Iliili but unfortunately he was stopped by police on the road and he admitted what he did was wrong.
The defendant also stated that during the inventory search of his truck, he was present but couldn’t see what the cops were doing, he was surprised when the officer that was standing by the door of the driver’s side handed a plastic baggie to the senior police officer and the senior police officer walked over to him and asked him if he knew about the stuff and he just responded that he didn’t know. The defendant further stated that he didn’t see what the cops were doing because the cop that was at the driver’s side door blocked his view.
Investigators interviewed the police officer who conducted the inventory search where he stated that the defendant had a clear view of the search because he was standing next to the other police officer.
Investigators also questioned a second police officer present during the inventory search, who confirmed that the defendant had a clear view of the search because he could see the defendant from the passenger door standing next to another police officer.
A third police officer also present during the search told investigators he asked the defendant what was inside the lighter socket and the defendant looked and told him that he didn’t know what was inside.
Investigators discovered during the interviewed that Ualesi has an outstanding warrant due to his alleged involvement in an assault incident over two years ago.
On May 12, 2018, a man contacted the TPS requesting police assistant after his brother was severely wounded during a drinking session with two other men.
Police responded to the call and met up with the man who reported the matter. According to the reporter, he went to visit his brother at his house in Iliili around 6:21p.m on May 12 and found his brother lying on the ground at the back of his house very drunk.
As he approached his brother, he saw blood all over his body including his head and facial area. He immediately called police for assistance.
According to the government, the victim sustained severe head injuries and was admitted to the LBJ Medical Hospital for 4 days before he was released.
When questioned by police, the victim stated that he was assaulted by his two best friends, Ualesi Tagaloa (defendant) and another male individual (who is also mentioned in the affidavit) during a drinking session.
The victim told police that Tagaloa struck his head with a metal pipe after his other friend punched him twice in the face. While he was lying on the ground, Ualesi kicked him in the back and chest.
When questioned by investigators, Tagaloa admitted to the allegation, saying that it was the victim who started the fight by punching him in the face.