Man who was let go during a vehicle stop that netted meth arrested the next day
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The passenger of a blue Toyota pick-up in which investigators found a bag that allegedly contained 8g of white crystalline substance and drug paraphernalia was let go; however, the following evening, the passenger —Pio Antonio — was arrested by police and charged after being found in possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.
This time he was a passenger in a different vehicle that 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.
Atonio is being charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), a felony.
The charge stems from the incident that occurred May 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 he was sitting.
Atonio, 45, of Nu’uuli made his initial appearance in District Court on Monday, where he waived his right to a preliminary examination.
His case was bound over to High Court for arraignment on Wednesday morning, where he entered a not guilty plea.
According to the government’s case, Atonio and another male identified as Foketi Misi Siua were in a truck driven by Siulefaiga Toala, when a patrol officer pulled them over in Iliili around 7:30pm on May 16.
Toala 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 Atonio was sitting.
Police interviewed Atonio and Siua that night and both men were released without being charged.
However, the following night around 7:23p.m, the same patrol officer along with a female senior police officer spotted a vehicle with light defects while patrolling in the Tafuna area.
The cops stopped the vehicle, and the male officer approached the driver, to notify him of the defects.
While speaking to the driver, the male officer noticed that the driver was the same person he had released following a vehicle stop he conducted the night before during which drugs were allegedly discovered.
The driver of the vehicle was Foketi Misi Siua.
The male officer also recognized the passenger inside the vehicle as Atonio, the men were the same two who were released the night before, as passengers in Toala’s vehicle.
Both men were taken to the Tafuna SubStation for questioning.
Siua agreed to let one of the cops drive him to the Tafuna SubStation while he sat in the passenger seat. But Atonio appeared very nervous and anxious to leave the scene.
According to the affidavit, Atonio resisted, saying he needed to purchase “cash power” for their home in Nu’uuli, but then later agreed to go with police.
Before he got into the police unit, cops checked the back seat to make sure everything was clear before Atonio entered.
Upon arriving the Substation, the two police officers that escorted Atonio told detectives that six empty stamp-sized baggies known for packing methamphetamine fell out when Atonio exited the police unit.
One cop asked Atonio about the baggies and he responded, “I don’t know anything about that.”
Police officers immediately conducted a search of the police unit — exactly where Atonio was seated — and found a small black pouch on the floor containing one clear glass pipe covered with white residue; 46 empty stamp sized baggies, and 10 empty medium sized baggies.
Detectives tested the white residue from the glass pipe and it tested positive for methamphetamine.
A male officer inside the station also conducted a body search on Atonio by and 6 empty stamp-sized baggies, a lighter, and a pack of cigarettes were found.
Atonio, in his verbal and written statement to police, said the glass pipe that was found in the police unit does not belong to him.
The driver of the vehicle Siua was released after questioning.
Judge Fiti Sunia set bail for Atonio at $5,000. As of press time, Atonio was unable to post bond and he remains in custody at the TCF.
If he is able to post bond, Judge Sunia has issued conditions of release, which include remaining alcohol and drug free, and surrendering to random drug and alcohol testing.