Man pulled over for a defective light is arrested and charged for drugs
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The male driver of a truck that was stopped by police two weeks ago has told investigators that the bag they found in the vehicle — allegedly containing a huge quantity of a white crystalline substance, marijuana, cash, and paraphernalia — does not belong to him.
Richard Valasi, 46, made his initial appearance in District Court last week. Preliminary examination (PX) is set for Thursday. Judge Elvis Patea established bail at $20,000 under certain conditions. Valasi, who is on probation for a prior drug conviction from 4 years ago, is to remain law abiding, and alcohol and drug free.
For this case, he is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine; one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute; one count of unlawful possession of marijuana; and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute — all felonies.
Patea reminded Valasi of his outstanding fines for several traffic citations totaling $531 saying they need to be taken care of as soon as possible.
According to the court affidavit, a silver truck with no license plate light was stopped by police on the night of Dec. 27th in the Tafuna area. Valasi and another male were in the vehicle. Police discovered that the tag (741C) did not match the license plate number (2741). According to dispatch, the license plate in question expired Nov. 2016. Valasi was cited and the vehicle impounded.
During an inventory of the vehicle, in Valasi’s presence, a blue bag was found in the back seat and a yellow envelope was discovered under the driver’s seat. (Valasi was behind the wheel when the vehicle was pulled over).
When asked about the bag and the envelope, Valasi — who police say looked drunk — shook his head and denied any knowledge of the items. Cops found in the bag two baggies, wrapped in a lavalava. One of the baggies contained 10 smaller baggies, each with a white crystalline substance. The other baggie held 15 smaller baggies, containing a green leafy substance. Inside the yellow envelope were drug paraphernalia, 5 hand rolled marijuana cigarettes and $220 cash.
When asked about the contents of the bag, Valasi said, “it’s all drugs but I don’t know who owns it.” During a body search, 2 clear baggies both containing a white crystalline substance fell from Valasi’s pants pocket. He also pulled out a glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance.
Valasi didn’t have an answer when asked about the baggies and pipe. He just smiled and shrugged. He later admitted that the drugs found on him were his, but he knew nothing about the stuff in the bag and the yellow envelope.
Valasi’s passenger that night told police Valasi picked him up at home to go for a ride. And before they were pulled over by police, he heard Valasi on the phone mention something about dropping a parcel to “Uncle M”.
The passenger told cops he knew nothing about the bag because he didn’t have a bag with him. During a second interview that same night, the passenger told police he knew Valasi was involved with drugs but he didn’t know there were drugs in the vehicle that night.
During a second search of the vehicle, police found 3 glass pipes in the back seat. Valasi’s explanation was as follows: “o le paipa e ula ai a’u aisa” (it’s the pipe I use to smoke my ice). Each glass pipe was loaded with a white crystalline substance. (The white crystalline substances and green leafy substances found that night tested positive for meth and marijuana, respectively).
Valasi, through a verbal and written statement to police, said the bag with the drugs was in the vehicle before he got in, and the vehicle doesn’t even belong to him. Police caught a huge break when the passenger who first lied to them, told them the next day that he wanted to change his statement.
According to the passenger, Valasi asked if he wanted something to eat, and he said yes. A few minutes later, Valasi called again and asked him to come out, that his vehicle was parked in front of his home, and he was waiting for him.
On their way to the restaurant, said the passenger, Valasi told him he will give him a gift after they drop the stuff off to his uncle’s home. The passenger told police that according to Valasi, the stuff in the vehicle all belonged to ‘Uncle M’, and he needed to get rid of it before something happens.
Among the evidence collected from Valasi’s vehicle were 65 empty small baggies; 2 digital scales; several medium sized plastic baggies; 19 Q-tips; one jumbo cut-up straw; electric tape; and a large cut-up straw commonly used to scoop ice.
Valasi was sentenced to serve 20 months at the TCF, as a condition of his 5-year probation in 2015, for a marijuana possession conviction.
He was initially charged with unlawful possession of marijuana; and unlawful possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, both felonies. But in a plea agreement with the government, he pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of marijuana.
The charges were filed after police raided the home Valasi rented with his wife in Aua and discovered a huge amount of marijuana inside his room, along with paraphernalia.