Young man who admits he stole from his church is going to jail
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young man convicted of stealing equipment belonging to his church and later violating local drug laws is going to jail. Seilala Onofia was ordered to serve 28 months at the TCF as a condition of his 7-year probation.
Onofia, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond, appeared in Court last week for sentencing.
Under a plea agreement with the government, Onofia pled guilty to stealing and the amended charge of unlawful possession of meth.
Sefulu admits that on Oct. 1st, 2021, he entered a building in Tafuna that belong to his church and took off with equipment, which he later sold to another man for drugs. He also damaged the fence and some of the property inside the church compound.
Ten days later, on Oct. 11, when he was arrested for the stealing case, cops found on him two glass pipes containing meth.
When given the chance to speak, Onofia apologized and asked for forgiveness. He said spending over 16 months in prison has taught him a good lesson. He asked the court for a chance to return back home and care for his family.
Attorneys from both sides asked for probation.
Onofia was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. Execution of the sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation for 7 years subject to several conditions including that he serve 28 months at the TCF. He was credited for the time he spent in pretrial confinement, which was 13 months.
Upon release from custody, Onofia is ordered to seek and secure gainful employment, stay away from alcohol and illegal drugs. He will subject to random testing to make sure he’s in compliance of the stay clean order.
A man who was arrested during a traffic stop last month when illegal drugs were allegedly found in his possession told police that he bought the drugs at a house in Vaitogi.
Simeki Malaeulu made his initial appearance in Court last month where the court set bail at $5,000 surety bond.
Malaeulu is now charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine (meth) and one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; marijuana, both unclassified felonies punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five nor more than ten years and a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $20,000, or both; along with one count of resisting arrest, a class D felony.
According to the government’s case, it was about 7:40a.m on Sept. 30, 2022 a vehicle was seen been driven recklessly and police pursued the vehicle, which turned into a company’s parking lot area in Tafuna.
Upon approaching the driver, he identified himself to police officers as Simeki Malaeulu, the defendant in this matter.
When asked what he was doing, the defendant responded by stating he was trying to fix his vehicle and that something was wrong with the gas pedal. When asked for his driver’s license, the defendant stated that he had a driver’s license but did not have it in his possession.
Officers ran his name through the system, but no records were found identifying the defendant.
After a brief discussion officers then informed the defendant that the vehicle would be impounded because he was operating it without a driver’s license. The driver continued to argue with the officers, while walking to the passenger-side of the vehicle.
He told officers that if they’re going to search him and his vehicle, he wanted to see a court order before doing that.
It was at that time when officers observed the defendant reach inside of his vehicle, grab a cellphone along with sunglasses. The officers clearly observed the defendant reach into his pocket and then toss something away from him. The officers discovered that the item tossed out by the defendant was a medium baggie containing a glass pipe and a small stamp-sized baggie.
Inside the glass pipe was a white crystalline substance and inside the small baggie was a green leafy substance.
When the two officers attempted to arrest the defendant, the defendant resisted and tried to push police officers away from him.
The officers then called for backup and were able to place the defendant under arrest and transport him to the TPS for questioning by investigators from the DPS Vice and Narcotic Unit.
During questioning, the defendant admitted to possessing and owning the drugs — meth and marijuana.
He also stated that he often purchased meth from this friend in Vaitogi and that he never got more than $20 worth of meth at a time.
Pulemau Unasa, who was convicted of stealing, was released from custody last week, after the High Court determined that the 14 months he served at the TCF to await sentencing, was enough.
Pulemau Unasa, under a plea agreement with the government, pled guilty to the amended charge of stealing, a class C felony, punishable by not more than 7 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000.
With his guilty plea, Unasa admits that on Aug. 10, 2021, he stole property that belonged to another person.
During sentencing, Unasa apologized to the government, the court, and people of American Samoa for his behavior and asked for forgiveness, noting, “Please, I want to go home to my family.”
His father and his aunty, both present in court, were in tears when Unasa apologized.
The defense attorney asked the court to give Unasa another chance. He said his client is only 24 years old, very immature, and he has advised him to think about his future. He said his client is a suitable candidate for probation. The prosecutor echoed the statement.
The court said that while Unasa is young, the pre-sentence report shows that he's had a prior run-in with the law.
Unasa was placed on probation for 5 years under certain conditions. He has to remain a law abiding at all times, visit the probation office once a month, and serve 20 months at the TCF.
“You will be credited the 14 months you have already served; the balance of 6 months will be stayed as long as you comply with all conditions of your probation,” the court told Unasa, who was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine within 6 months, and secure gainful employment.
“If you violate any condition of your probation, your chance will be over and you will go to prison for 5 years,” the court advised Unasa.
A 35-year-old man who has a pending matter in the Family, Drug and Alcohol (FDA) court was arrested last month and charged with criminal contempt, along with violating local drug laws.
According to the government's case, police got a call for assistance on Oct. 20th, 2022, reporting that Taamilo Vaea was drunk and disorderly in front of a store in the Tafuna area.
A police dispatcher claimed to have heard "people yelling and shouting profane words and children crying" in the background.
Cops who responded to the call say they heard people screaming from several houses down when they approached the area. A search for the suspect was carried out, at his home, which is near the ocean.
Police saw him near his house and Vaea proceeded to run away, after telling police he did not want to go to jail.
Two men from the area assisted officers in searching for the defendant and found him hiding at the back of an abandoned house a few blocks away.
Several witnesses told officers that Vaea was intoxicated and yelling profanities at his family and neighbors.
Before Vaea was transported to TPS, a body search was conducted by officers where they discovered a small baggie containing meth, and another small baggie containing marijuana inside Vaea’s right pocket.
When asked about the drugs, Vaea told officers that they belonged to him. He did not offer any further information regarding the illegal drugs.
Vaea made his initial appearance in court last month.
He is charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, both unclassified felonies, punishable by imprisonment from 5 to 10 years, a fine of up to $20,000, or both, along with one count of contempt of court, a class A misdemeanor.
Bail is set at $5,000.