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Man doesn’t take advantage of his luck when not arrested for drugs the “first” time

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The passenger of a pick-up in which investigators found a small bag that allegedly contained white crystalline substance and drug paraphernalia was let go. However, instead of taking advantage of his near miss from being arrested — the following evening, Vito Laulala was a passenger in a different vehicle, but this time he was arrested by police and charged after being found in possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

The vehicle was stopped for light defects. The previous night the vehicle he was in had been stopped for having no light over the license plate and when police checked, it was found the tags did not match the license plate number. Furthermore, the driver also didn’t have his driver’s license on him when asked by officers.

During his arrest, investigators discovered Laulala had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for involvement in a 2019 burglary case in the Tafuna area, where he used his vehicle to transport the stolen items from the crime scene to his house in Fogagogo.

The government has filed two separate criminal cases against Laulala.

In the first case, Laulala is being charged in the 2019 burglary case.

In the second case, Laulala is being charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and one count on unlawful possession of marijuana, both unclassified felonies.

The charge stems from the incident that occurred July 17th, when police officers allegedly found a glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance and several small plastic baggies on the floor of the police unit where Laulala had been sitting when he was brought in re the second vehicle that was stopped for no license lights of which he was a passenger.

Laulala, 38, a citizen of Samoa, residing in Fogagogo made his initial appearance in District Court last month where he waived his right to a preliminary examination.

His case was bound over to High Court for arraignment where he entered a not guilty plea. His pretrial conference is scheduled for October of this year.

The government’s case identifies Laulala and another male as passengers in a truck driven by Iese Fetalaiga, when a patrol officer pulled them over in Iliili around 5:30p.m on July 16th. This is the first vehicle that Laulala was riding as a passenger.

During this incident, Fetalaiga was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of illegal drugs after detectives of the Vice & Narcotics Unit allegedly found a crystalline substance and drug paraphernalia inside a bag that was under the passenger’s seat of the vehicle — where Laulala was sitting.

Police interviewed both passengers that night and both men were released without being charged. Laulala told investigators that he has no knowledge about a bag containing drugs inside Fetalaiga’s vehicle when he entered the vehicle.

However, the following night around 9:23p.m, the same patrol officer along with two other police officers spotted a vehicle with light defects while patrolling in the Tafuna area. The vehicle was also speeding.

The cops stopped the vehicle, and while speaking to the driver, the male officer noted that the driver was the same person — one of the passengers — he had released following a vehicle stop he conducted the night before during which drugs were allegedly discovered.

The driver of the vehicle was Fred Mutini-Iose.

The male officer also recognized the passenger inside the vehicle as Laulala; in fact, the men were the same two who were released the night before, as passengers in Fetalaiga’s vehicle.

While the officer was speaking to the driver, Laulala was making a lot of movement inside the vehicle. He first tried to open his door but the officer instructed him to stay inside the vehicle. He then tried to reached down to his boot.

As Laulala was making a lot of movement, the officer clearly observed two cut-up straws (commonly used to sell meth) lying on the floor under the seat where Laulala was sitting.

For the safety of officers, both men were instructed to exit the vehicle and immediately.  taken to the Tafuna Police SubStation (TPS) for questioning. The vehicle was also impounded by officers and was also transported to the TPS for further inspection.

Motini-Iose agreed to let one of the cops drive him to the TPS, while he sat in the passenger seat.

According to the affidavit, Laulala resisted going to the TPS, saying he needed to purchase “food” for his elderly mother who is at the LBJ Medical Hospital. He told the officer that he needed to go now to Faga’alu but the officer instructed him to stay where he was standing.

After a few confrontations with the officers, Laulala finally agreed to go with police to the TPS for further questioning.

Before he got into the police unit, cops checked the back seat to make sure everything was clear before Laulala entered.

Upon arriving at TPS, the two police officers that escorted Laulala told detectives that five empty stamp-sized baggies known for packing meth and two empty cut-up straws fell out when Laulala exited the police unit.

One cop asked Laulala about the baggies and the straws and Laulala responded, “I don’t know anything about that and I didn’t see any baggies and straws inside the police unit”.

Police officers immediately conducted a search of the police unit — exactly where Laulala had been seated — and found a small black pouch on the floor containing two clear glass pipes covered with white residue; 10 empty stamp sized baggies, and 10 empty medium sized baggies.

Detectives tested the white residue from the two glass pipes and it tested positive for meth.

A male officer inside the station also conducted a body search on Laulala and discovered 2 small stamp-seized baggies containing green leafy substance inside Laulala’s rear pocket of his pants. Further search netted 6 empty stamp-sized baggies, a lighter, and a pack of cigarettes.

Detectives tested the green leafy substance from the two baggies and it tested positive for THC, an active compound in marijuana.

Laulala, in his verbal and written statement to police, said the two glass pipes that were found in the police unit do not belong to him. He strongly denied any knowledge about the stuff. For the marijuana substance found on his possession, he told investigators that he found the stuff inside the vehicle when he got inside and he then put it inside his pocket when police pulled over their car.

When questioned by investigators, driver stated that he had no knowledge of the drugs found on his friend, Laulala, or even the drugs found inside the police unit. He stated to police that he picked up Laulala from his home in Fogagogo after Laulala requested a ride to do shopping for his sick mother at the hospital.

Mutini-Iose further stated that he didn’t know his friend Laulala had drugs in his possession until he was told by officers that they discovered paraphernalia inside the police unit. Mutini-Iose also told investigators that he knew Laulala is involved with illegal drugs but he never said anything to him (Laulala) because it none of his business.

Motini-Iose was released after questioning.

The Court set bail for Laulala at $10,000. As of press time, Laulala has been unable to post bond and he remains in custody at the TCF.

If he is able to post bond, the Court has issued conditions of release, which include remaining alcohol and drug free, and surrendering to random drug and alcohol testing.