Man faces multiple charges in alleged one-man crime wave
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 35-year-old man from Tafeta is now in custody after he was arrested last month in a traffic stop. Apelu Lavea’i was taken into custody and held for 48 hours after police allegedly discovered a quantity of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, live ammunition and cash inside the vehicle.
The police investigation revealed that Lavea’I is also an overstayer from Samoa with an expired immigration ID from 2015 and an active warrant from an attempted burglary case last year.
Lavea’i 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; along with one count of unlawful possession of ammunition, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to 1 years, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Bail is set at $10,000.
In the second case, Lavea’i 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 black Nissan pick-up with expired license tags and no license plate light was stopped by a police officer on June 12th at around 4:34a.m in the Puapua area. Lavea’i was in the vehicle with three male individuals, including two adults and one juvenile, a 17-year-old male.
When asked to provide his driver’s license, Lavea’i 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 (450A) did not match the number on the license plate (5048).
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’i and told him the vehicle would be impounded at the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS).
Police conducted a body search of the four to make sure they were not in possession of anything illegal such as drugs or weapons.
The three passengers were clear, however, when police searched the defendant, they allegedly discovered a medium sized baggie inside the right pocket of his pants. Inside the baggie were 7 hand rolled joints containing green leafy substance.
Police conducted an inventory search on the impounded vehicle and Lavea’i was present during the search.
During the search, police found a green backpack under the passenger’s seat and Lavea’i immediately told police that it belonged to his uncle who owns the vehicle.
Police opened the backpack 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 a small plastic container with one round of live ammunition for a .45 hand gun and drug paraphernalia.
As the search continued to the rear of the vehicle, Lavea’i stated to police that the vehicle does not belong to him, but to his uncle who is in stuck in Hawaii due tot he COVID-19 restrictions.
Before Lavea’i was transported to the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) police received a phone call from a man in Vaitogi saying that his black Nissan pick-up had been stolen from his house while he was at his plantation. The caller further stated to police that the only person who could do that was a guy by the name of “Saint Abel”, a carpenter from the Tafuna area.
One of the passengers of the vehicle 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’i in Nua and Seetaga and they knew nothing about a bag with drugs inside because Lavea’i didn’t have a bag with him when he picked them up.
When asked about the drugs, Lavea’i admitted to police that everything found inside the back bag including drugs and ammunition found 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’i had an active arrest warrant from an attempted burglary case from the beginning of last year.
THE STOLEN VEHICLE CASE
When police questioned Lavea’i about the stolen vehicle, the defendant admitted that he went to his friend’s home in Vaitogi and stole his vehicle. Lavea’i told police that his friend owed him $800 for renovating his living room.
Lavea’i told police that the agreement between him and his friend (owner of the vehicle), was — he (Lavea’i) would use his own materials such as lumber, cement and many other materials to renovate his friend’s house, and his friend would pay him later.
Five months after the renovation and he was still waiting for this friend to pay him. According to Lavae’i, his friend owned him $800 for labor and materials.
According to the victim’s statement to police, Lavea’i 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’i walking around the house in the morning.
Police informed the owner of the vehicle regarding Laveai’s statement about the money he owed to Lavea’i for the materials and the work he did for him.
At that point, the owner of the vehicle informed police that he does not want to file any complaint against the defendant.
THE ATTEMPTED BURGLARY CASE
When questioned by police regarding the attempted burglary, Lavea’i admitted that he attempted to break inside his neighbor’s home in Kokoland in January of 2019.
The government alleged that on Jan 01, 2019 around 5:10a.m, a woman called police for assistance after she and her husband observed a man attempting to break into their son’s home, which is next to their house in Puapua.
Lavea’i 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) allegedly did this to them.