Salt Lake City man arrested on 5 crime charges

Siaosa Tonga. Photo: Uintah County

UINTAH COUNTY, Utah, June 16, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) – A Salt Lake City man was arrested Saturday night after a brief Uintah County car chase that resulted in a stolen vehicle containing drugs and a loaded gun.

Uintah County Sheriff’s deputies and Vernal police attempted to stop a suspected stolen vehicle on Vernal Avenue at around 10:10 p.m., according to a press release.

“The driver stopped for a moment, then did a U-turn and headed south on Vernal Avenue. At about 500 North, the driver made another U-turn to avoid the police and headed north on Vernal Avenue, also known as US-191, ”it says.

The chase reached speeds of 80 mph before headstrips near 3000 North were successfully deployed. The fleeing vehicle left the lane with flat tires and crashed into trees. The driver and passenger were arrested without incident.

The driver, 24-year-old Siaosa Moata Tonga, had a cigarette packet with 13.5 grams of a crystal substance in his front pocket. Tonga told MPs the substance was methamphetamine. During a subsequent search of the car, a loaded .380 caliber pistol was found in a backpack.

Tonga, who was released from prison in March after 15 months in prison on previous convictions, admitted the backpack was his and admitted he had handled the gun. When MEPs searched Tonga and its property in the Uintah County Jail, MPs also found 3.5 grams of heroin.

Tonga was jailed on suspicion:

  • Receiving or handing over a stolen vehicle, a second degree crime
  • Failure to respond to the official’s signal to stop, a third-degree crime
  • Two charges of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, a third degree crime
  • Trafficking in firearms by a Class 2 Restricted Person, a third degree crime
  • Possession or use of a controlled substance, a Class B offense
  • Driving with a revoked driver’s license, a class C offense

Tonga’s bail was set at $ 31,020.

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