Man charged for drugs after govt executes warrant for stealing cell phone
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man with an outstanding warrant for stealing is now charged with unlawful possession of drugs after police arrested him and discovered illegal drugs in his possession.
Ernest Aetui made his initial appearance in court last week.
The government has filed two separate cases against Aetui.
In the first case, Aetui is charged with stealing, a class C felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to seven 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.
Bail in this case is set at $5,000.
In the second case, Aetui is charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five or more than ten years and a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $20,000, or both.
Bail in this case is set at $5,000.
THE UNLAWFUL POSSESSION CASE
On Sept. 01, 2020 morning, several police officers conducting a routine patrol on the public highway of Futiga village observed a vehicle heading west driven by Ernest Aetui who had an outstanding warrant in his name. Officers pursued Aetui, who is the defendant in this matter, and observed Aetui parking in front of a store, next to the road heading to the landfill in Futiga.
Two officers exited their police unit and approached Aetui while he was sitting in his vehicle and informed him of the outstanding warrant in his name. He refused to leave the vehicle and attempted to turn his vehicle back on, but officers immediately grabbed Aetui’s hand and stopped him from starting the vehicle.
But Aetui resisted by removing his hand from the officers, and after several moments of scuffling with Aetui, the officers were able to pull Aetui out from his vehicle and place cuffs on him. He was then transported to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS).
It was during transportation to TPS that Aetui asked one of the officers to help him but the officer told Aetui that whatever he wanted to speak about had to wait until they got to the TPS. Aetui then told the officer that he had a straw containing methamphetamine on him.
Upon arrival at the TPS, Aetui was presented with copies of the outstanding warrants in his name. Aetui was then informed that they needed to conduct an inventory search on the rental vehicle he was driving and Aetui agreed.
The inventory search discovered three straws about an inch long and a glass pipe commonly used to consume methamphetamine. The three straws and the glass pipe all contained white crystalline substances inside.
The matter was then transferred to the DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit for further investigation.
When questioned by investigators from the Vice and Narcotics unit, after he was informed of his constitutional rights, Aetui stated that he understood his rights but refused to make a statement to investigators. He said that he wanted to speak to his attorney first before he issued any statement regarding the matter.
Aetui was then transported to the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) where he was booked and confined.
THE STEALING CASE FROM 2018
On Sept. 7, 2018, the Manager of the Manu’a Store in Tafuna called the TPS regarding a stolen item from the store. Several police officers responded to the call and were able to investigate the matter.
Officers interviewed the store manager along with several employees regarding the stolen item from the store.
One store employee told officers that around 12noon, a male individual came to him and asked to look at the Galaxy Note 4X phone. The male was later identified as Ernest Aetui, the defendant in this matter.
The employee then got distracted with a store project, and forgot that he had given the phone to Aetui.
Four hours later, another store employee noticed that the phone was missing from its display and called the store manager to inform her.
Several employees were also notified about the missing phone and the employee who had given the phone to Aetui immediately informed his boss regarding the matter.
Security footage was then checked and it confirmed that Aeetui left the store with the phone in his possession. When asked by officers how he came to identify Aetui, the employee who gave Aetui the phone told officers that he and Aetui are from Futiga.
It was five days later that Aetui was arrested and was taken into the TPS for questioning in a drug case. While questioning Aetui, a police sergeant recalled the matter of the stolen phone from the Manu’a’s Store.
Aetui was asked about the cell phone alleged to have been stolen five days previously, and he stated that on Sept. 8th, he went back to the Manu’a store to return the cellphone and paid $50 and the matter was settled with the owner of the Manu’a’s store.
Investigators contacted the Manu’a’s store manager and the manager told investigators that Aetui had shown up the next day but she stopped him from entering the store until he brought back the phone, and according to the manager he has not returned the phone and she has not seen him since.
The Galaxy 4X cell phone was being sold at the Manu’a’s Store for $325.
Aetui, along with his sister and her husband were arrested and charged in April of this year on the allegation that the family found a way to tamper with the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) electricity service to get power illegally — without being metered or charged.
Aetui was charged with one count of criminal fraud, a class C felony, in this case.
When Aetui was arrested for this matter the government also charged him with stealing the cell phone from the Manu’a’s store.
During court proceedings, the case involving the illegal use of ASPA power was dismissed after ASPA and the family reached a settlement where the Aetui family agreed to pay the money back to ASPA.
As for the matter involving the cell phone stole from the Manu’a store in September 2018, the case was dismissed without prejudice by the court.
Last week, Aetui was rearrested after the government refiled their case.