Traffic stop near ASCC results in man being charged with ‘ice’ possession
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man involved in the case where 4 males were charged and convicted of shooting at the Leone Substation a few years ago was arrested last week on drug charges.
Sinapati Tuufaanatu made his initial appearance in District Court this week. He later waived his right to a preliminary hearing and the case has been bound over to High Court.
Tuufaanatu is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a felony punishable by imprisonment of 5-10 years, a fine of $5,000-$20,000 or both.
Bail is set at $5,000
On Sept. 2, 2019 two officers conducted speeding enforcement across from the ASCC campus. At about 10a.m., they stopped a speeding vehicle that was heading west. Two males were inside. The driver identified himself to police as Sinapati Tuufaanatu, and did not have on him a valid driver’s license or any other form of identification. It was later confirmed that his license had expired Sept. 17, 2017.
Tuufaanatu was then told that his vehicle will be impounded at the Tafuna Substation and he will be taken in for further questioning. He was handcuffed and rode in the passenger seat of his vehicle while a cop took the wheel.
Before heading to the police station, Tuufaanatu handed a red fanny pack to one officer, to give to his passenger (who identified himself to police as Tuugafala Uiese). The cop who handed the fanny pack over to Uiese asked Uiese if the fanny pack belonged to him. Uiese said no, it belongs to Tuufaanatu.
Uiese was then placed in the police unit and the cop held on to the fanny pack until their arrival at the police station. Once there, the cop returned the red fanny pack to Tuufaanatu who still claimed that it belonged to Uiese. That’s when a senior officer asked him if they could search the red fanny pack for any form of identification. Tuufaanatu said okay.
The search netted 3 small stamp-sized baggies containing a white crystalline substance that tested positive as meth.
When questioned by police, Uiese said he had known Tuufaanatu for only 2 weeks and they met during one of his village’s bingo games. He said Tuufaanatu would ask him for help with yard work and on that day, he picked him up to help mow his lawn in Nuuuli.
According to Uiese, Tuufaanatu had the red fanny pack in his car when he picked him up; and after mowing the lawn in Nuuuli, he asked for his help again. This time, with planting taro in Aoloau.
Uiese said he agreed and when they were stopped by police, he saw Tuufaanatu stuff the red fanny pack under his seat and was surprised when the police officer walked up to him saying Tuufaanatu said the red fanny pack was his.
One of the cops who escorted Tuufaanatu to the substation told the lead investigator that during the ride, Tuufaanatu behaved strangely. He looked nervous and wouldn’t stop moving and kicking his feet. En route to the police station, Tuufaanatu grabbed the ash tray and spilled its contents on the floor. One officer immediately pulled the ash tray away from him and asked what he was doing. Tuufaanatu did not respond.When questioned by investigators, Tuufaanatu said the red fanny pack did not belong to him, it was Uiese’s.
Tuufaanatu’s vehicle was searched in his presence. Police found a pipe containing white crystalline substance on the floor of the passenger side, wrapped in a white T-shirt. There was also a green leafy substance scattered all over the sides of the rug on the passenger side. Two closed off straws were also discovered underneath a soda can in the passenger’s side cup holder.
During arraignment in High Court yesterday morning, Tuufaanatu pled ‘not guilty’ to the charge against him.
Pretrial conference is Nov. 21, 2019.