Taxi driver accused of sexually abusing a 16-yr-old girl in Ottoville
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 42-year-old taxi driver is being held on $30,000 bail on allegations that he sexually abused a 16-year-old girl from Ottoville.
Reupena Vaega is charged with two counts of first degree sexual abuse, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both; and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor.
The defendant made his initial appearance in District Court last week.
If he is able to post bond, Vaega is not to leave or attempt to leave the territory, and he is not to make any direct or indirect contact with the victim. If he encounters her in public, he must walk away peacefully.
The victim, accompanied by her father, filed the complaint against Vaega at the Tafuna substation earlier this month. The victim and her family live in the same neighborhood as the defendant.
As a taxi driver, Vaega would pick up the victim and her three little brothers from their home and drop them off at school when he encountered them on the road.
The 16-year-old high school victim said she considers Vaega a family member, and she addresses him as ‘uncle’.
In March of this year, Vaega, behind the wheel of his taxi, saw the victim after school, walking home by herself in Ottoville. The government alleges that Vaega stopped his cab and asked the victim to come inside — that he would give her a ride home.
It was during that time that Vaega asked the victim if he could pick her up on Saturday morning so he can talk to her about something important. The victim agreed and Vaega picked her up that Saturday when the victim’s parents were at a church meeting.
The government alleges that Vaega picked the girl up and the two drove to an area near the defendant’s home where they spent almost 2 hours talking inside his vehicle.
During the conversation, according to the victim, Vaega asked her if they could start a secret friendship under certain conditions — he would provide money for her and buy anything she needed, but she would have to agree to do whatever he asked.
The victim told police that Vaega promised her that he would never do anything bad to her. According to the girl, it was after Flag Day this year, while her father was off island, that Vaega picked her up. The victim said she lied to her mother, telling her she’s going to choir practice; instead, Vaega picked her up.
According to the victim’s story to police, during her second conversation in the taxi with Vaega, the defendant gave her money. Afterwards, Vaega touched her chest in a sexual manner.
The girl told police that in the beginning of this year, Vaega bought her a new phone to make it easier for them to communicate.
The latest incident — which led to this case being reported to police — occurred two weeks ago when the victim’s father saw Vaega’s vehicle parked close to their home. A man, who was with the victim’s father, told him that people were talking about Vaega picking up young girls from different areas and driving them to various places.
The victim’s father, concerned for the safety of his children, especially his daughter, walked over to where the taxi was parked, to see the driver’s face and talk to him.
While Vaega was talking to the victim’s father, the victim’s mother approached them and told her husband that she found $60 inside their daughter’s pants. She said she asked her daughter where she got the money from, and the girl told her it was from the taxi driver who had just dropped her off.
Police were immediately informed and both the victim and Vaega were questioned.
Vaega allegedly told police that he had started a relationship with the victim in March of this year. He said he bought her a phone because she told him she needed one so they could talk. He allegedly admitted that he was aware the victim was a minor because he had asked her age.
According to police, Vaega refused to provide a written statement, saying his verbal statement was enough. Police claim that during the interview, Vaega seemed nervous and would change his answers after being asked the same questions.
The victim told police that Vaega sexually abused her on two separate occasions, by touching her chest area and her thighs in a sexual manner.
The victim also told police that Vaega give her $70 during their first meeting and $60 during their second meeting.