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Near miss vehicle collision prompts traffic stop resulting in drug arrest

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The driver of a black pick-up truck pulled over by police officers two months ago for failure to stop at a stop sign is now charged with violating local drug laws. The pick-up almost collided with another vehicle.

Ben Lokeni, a 40-year old male from Vaitogi, was taken into custody when police discovered two small baggies containing white crystalline substance in his possession.

When asked about the reason why he didn’t stop at the stop sign, he told police that he was in a rush to pick up his mother-in-law from home to take her to the hospital for her medical appointment. It was during this conversation, officers smelled a strong odor of alcohol coming from the driver’s breath and asked Lokeni if he was under the influence of alcohol, to which he replied, “No.”

Officers asked the driver again if he’s sure that he’s not under the influence of alcohol, the driver paused for few seconds before he replied, “Yes, I consumed a few beers at my friend’s house and I also got some illegal stuff on me.”

Officers asked the driver what stuff he was referring to, the driver replied, “illegal meth that my friend gave to me to take home.” Officers then instructed the driver to step out of his vehicle.

It was at that time the driver pulled out two small baggies containing a white substance and handed them over to police officers. He also pulled from his left pocket one hand rolled marijuana cigarette and handed it over to the officers. A pat down was conducted and nothing else was found.

The driver was transported to the Tafuna Police Station for further investigation, and his vehicle was also impounded.

After being Mirandized, Lokeni told investigators that he understood his rights and he wanted to make a statement regarding the incident. According to his written statement, Lokeni told investigators that the illegal drugs found in his possession were given to him by his friend from Pavaiai. Lokeni stated that he visited his friend’s house after work and had a few beers before heading back home.

During their drinking session, his friend gave him methamphetamine and marijuana for his personal use. The defendant further stated to investigators that he knew that his friend has been involved in selling drugs from his home. He told investigators that he’s not a drug dealer. He only smokes meth and marijuana.

Lokeni made his initial appearance in court two months ago.

He’s charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, both unclassified felonies, along with a class A misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

Bail was set at $10,000.