Double whammy for man arrested in a traffic stop
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man from Happy Valley is now in custody after he was arrested last month in a traffic stop. William Lavea was taken into custody and held for 48 hours after police allegedly discovered a quantity of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia and cash inside the vehicle.
The police investigation revealed that Lavea is also an overstayer from Samoa with an expired immigration ID from 2017 and an active warrant from an attempted burglary case last year.
Lavea made his initial appearance in court last month where he was charged in two separate cases.
In the first case, he is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine; one count of unlawful possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute; one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, all unclassified felonies which carry an imprisonment sentences between 5 to 10 years, a fine between $5,000 and $20,000, or both.
In the second case, Lavea is charged with one count of attempted burglary, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a $5,000 fine or both.
Bail for this case is set at $5,000.
THE FIRST CASE
According to the government, a pick-up truck with expired license tags and no license plate light was stopped by police on Jan 12th at around 5:03a.m in the Vaitogi area. Lavea was in the vehicle with three individuals two males, and one female.
When asked to provide his driver’s license, Lavea showed it — however, it had expired 4 years ago. When the police officer checked the light of the rear license plate, he discovered that the sticker on the plate (560A) did not match the number on the license plate (2248).
The officer contacted the Central Police Station Dispatcher for Registration and Ownership information, and the status of the vehicle's license plate and tags. The information provided noted that the license plate expired in August 2016. The officer cited Lavea and told him the vehicle would be impounded at the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS).
Police then conducted body searches on the four individuals per usual procedures and the three passengers were clear, however, when police searched Lavea, they allegedly discovered a medium sized baggie inside the right pocket of his pants. Inside the baggie were 5 hand rolled joints containing green leafy substance.
Police conducted an inventory search on the impounded vehicle and Lavea was present during the search.
During the search, police found a yellow envelope under the passenger’s seat and Lavea immediately told police that it belonged to his uncle who owns the vehicle.
Police opened the yellow envelope and allegedly found a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance, and a cut-up straw with residue of white crystalline substance inside. In addition, police found inside the bag cash and drug paraphernalia.
As the search continued to the rear of the vehicle, Lavea stated to police that the vehicle does not belong to him, but to his uncle who is in stuck in the States due tot he COVID-19 restrictions.
However, before Lavea was transported to jail, police received a phone call from a man in Nuuuli saying that his pick-up truck had been stolen from his house while he was at his plantation two days ago. The caller further stated to police that the only person who could do that was a guy by the name of ‘Will”, a carpenter from the Tafuna area.
One of the passengers agreed to speak with police regarding the incident. According to the passenger’s statement, he, along with his two cousins caught a ride with Lavea in Leone and they knew nothing about a bag with drugs inside the truck because Lavea didn’t have a bag with him when he picked them up.
When asked about the drugs, Lavea admitted to police that everything found inside the bag including drugs and ammunition belonged to him. He did not wish to reveal further information to police regarding the incident.
It was during the interview that police discovered that Lavea had an active arrest warrant from an attempted burglary case from the beginning of last year.
THE STOLEN VEHICLE
When police questioned Lavea about the stolen vehicle, the defendant admitted that he went to his friend’s home in Nu’uuli and stole his vehicle. Lavea told police that his friend owed him $500 for renovating his mother’s home in the Tafuna area.
Four months after the renovation, Lavea said he was still waiting for this friend to pay him.
According to the victim’s statement to police, Lavea broke into his house by damaging the side window. He then stole the vehicle’s key hanging on the wall and took off with the vehicle.
The victim further stated to police that a couple who lives next door told him that they saw Lavea walking around the house in the morning.
Police informed the owner of the vehicle regarding Lavea’s statement about the money he owed to Lavea for the materials and the work he did for him.
At that point, the owner of the vehicle informed police that he did not want to file any complaint against the defendant.
THE ATTEMPTED BURGLARY CASE
When questioned by police regarding the attempted burglary, Lavea admitted that he attempted to break inside his neighbor’s home in Ottoville in August of 2020.
The government alleges that on Aug. 21, 2020, around 5:10a.m, a woman called police for assistance after she and her husband observed a man attempting to break in to their son’s home, which is next to their house in Ottoville.
Lavea was unable to gain entry to the house.
The next morning the neighbor explained to the family what had happened and the woman called and notified police.
The woman further told police that this is not the first time their neighbor (defendant) did this to them.