Overstayer from Samoa jailed for theft

A Samoan citizen who overstayed in American Samoa since 2018 has been sentenced to two years and four months in prison for stealing a freezer and is the prime suspect in a string of burglaries. 

The case against Satini Opeta dates back to 27 December, 2019 when Police received a call from a man who reported a 26 March burglary, local media reported.

The man told police that his neighbour had informed him that a red truck was parked behind his home, and people were seen carrying a white freezer chest onto its back.

The neighbours described the vehicle to the man, who, through his own investigation, was able to determine that truck's license plate number and obtain a photo of the driver.

On 21 January, 2020, the man's wife told Police that she spotted the red truck the day before, while at a laundromat.

She took photos of the truck and the driver, and sent them to the neighbour for confirmation.

Another neighbour, behind the couple, also confirmed the identity of the driver, and the truck he was driving on the day of the burglary.

An inspection of the license plate of the truck revealed that the plates are registered to another vehicle, and therefore, the truck was operating with false plates.

A Police all points bulletin was put out for the truck. The vehicle was later stopped and escorted to the Department of Public Safety Tafuna substation.

The driver was identified as Taua Filiese, the same person in the photos taken by the victim's wife.

Filiese identified Opeta as person who stopped him and asked if he would help him pick up an icebox from Mapusaga Fou.

He said that after picking up the icebox from the victim's home, he dropped Opeta and the icebox off behind a residence in Iliili.

Opeta is now the primary suspect in at least five separate burglary investigations, and perhaps all the stolen items from those cases are stored in the shack in question. Opeta admitted to stealing the freezer.

The defendant was held in custody without bail due to his illegal immigration status. He appeared in May for sentencing.

The territory's government charged Opeta in two separate criminal cases – one count of second degree burglary and another count of second degree burglary and one count of stealing.

He admitted to forcing his way into the Mapusaga Fou home and stealing the freezer.

Opeta apologised to the court for his actions and said 18 months spent in custody taught him that stealing other people’s property is a dangerous crime.

The defendant was ordered to serve a period of detention of 28 months and will receive credit for the 18 months already served.

Upon serving his period of detention and once the borders are open to travel, the defendant is ordered to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the remaining period of probation.

The court advised the defendant that once he violates any condition of his probation while he still in the territory, he is facing a sentence of up to 14 years behind bars.

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