Malaeimi man arrested and charged for burglary after tip from ex-girlfriend
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man from Malaeimi who was arrested and charged for burglarizing his relative’s home and store is now facing additional charges of unlawful possession of illegal drugs.
Absalom “Loma” Tufuga made his initial appearance in District Court last week. Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell, while Assistant Public Defender Bob Stuart is representing the defendant.
Tufuga, 31, is facing charges in two separate cases.
In the first case, he is charged with two counts of second degree burglary; and two counts of stealing, both class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a $5,000 fine or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment for each count.
In the second case, he is charged with one count of unlawful possession methamphetamine and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana — both felonies.
Bail is set at $10,000.
If he posts bond, Tufuga is ordered to remain law abiding, not leave or attempt to leave the territory without the court’s permission, and not make any direct or indirect contact with the government’s witnesses, including the victim.
Tufuga has waived his right to a preliminary hearing and his case has been bound over to High Court. He appeared Monday for arraignment where he entered a ‘not guilty’ plea to the charges. Pretrial conference is Oct. 31st.
THE BURGLARY CASE
Police received a complaint from a Malaeimi man regarding his home and store being burglarized by unknown people while he was off island last month. The victim told police that he and his family returned Aug. 26th from a two-week trip to find that the back door of their home had been broken and several personal items were missing.
Also, his store’s back door and the side window were also damaged.
The missing items include: miscellaneous electric tools; 2 Samsung phones; a computer; 2 laptops; jewelry; 2 gold men’s watches; a box containing over $640 cash; clothes and shoes; 4 cartoons of cigarettes; one case of 3lb-pisupo; 2 cases of beer and several other canned goods from the store.
While officers were trying to collect evidence, a female from Mesepa came forward with information that would help investigators with their case.
The female told police that she had dated the culprit. According to her, she was at home on the night of Aug. 23rd, when her ex-boyfriend Tufuga called and asked if she needed anything from him. When she asked him what he meant, Tufuga said, “I got some jewelry, clothes, and cash for you.”
Later that night, Tufuga went to his ex-girlfriend’s Mesepa home and gave her some jewelry, new clothes, and $100 cash. Before he left, he told his ex to look for someone wanting to buy some electric tools from him.
Tufuga was picked up from his home in Malaeimi and taken in for questioning, where he verbally admitted to the August break-ins. During the interview, police noticed that Tufuga’s eyes were red and he acted like he was on something.
In his written statement, Tufuga noted down all the items he stole, along with the names of the people he sold them to. One of the people who bought a computer from him was a male taxi driver who told police he bought the computer from Tufuga for $120 but he didn’t know it was stolen.
He said Tufuga stopped his taxi in front of a Malaeimi store and asked him if he wanted to buy his sister’s old computer for $150, but he told Tufuga he only had $120 on him.
An Asian man who works at a store in Malaeimi told police that Tufuga sold him a laptop and two electric tools for $210. He said he’s known Tufuga for over 3 years and he always asks him for money to buy beer.
On Aug. 24th, Tufuga came to his workplace trying to sell him a laptop and 2 electric tools for $300. In the end, he gave Tufuga $210 for the items, saying he didn’t know they were stolen.
Two weeks ago, police went to Malaeimi with an arrest warrant for Tufuga, whom they found drinking with two men in front of a store in Malaeimi.
As soon as Tufuga saw the police unit coming towards him, he stood up and ran to the back of the store. Police followed him and he was apprehended at the back of the store. During a body search, police discovered a black wallet inside Tufuga’s pants. Inside the wallet were two hand rolled cigarettes and one small stamp-sized baggie containing a white crystalline substance.
When asked about the items, Tufuga said it was ice and marijuana. He allegedly admitted to police that he sold two stolen laptops to a man in Vaitogi for money to buy drugs. He refused to reveal the man’s name.