Salt Lake City man arrested in Uintah County on 5 felony 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 chase in Uintah County involving a stolen vehicle in which drugs and a loaded handgun were found.

Uintah County sheriff’s deputies and Vernal police attempted to stop a suspected stolen vehicle on Vernal Avenue at about 10:10 p.m., a news release says.

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

The chase reached speeds of 80 mph before spike strips were successfully deployed near 3000 North. With its tires flattened, the fleeing vehicle left the road and went into a stand of trees. The driver and passenger were taken into custody without further incident.

The driver, 24-year-old Siaosa Moata Tonga, had a cigarette pack in his front pocket that held 13.5 grams of a crystal substance. Tonga told deputies the substance was methamphetamine. A subsequent search of the car turned up a loaded .380-caliber handgun in a backpack.

Tonga, who was released from prison in March after serving 15 months for prior felony convictions, acknowledged the backpack belonged to him and admitted that he had handled the gun. Deputies also found 3.5 grams of heroin during a more detailed search of Tonga and his property at the Uintah County Jail.

Tonga was booked into jail on suspicion of:

  • Receive or transfer stolen vehicle, a second-degree felony
  • Failure to respond to officer’s signal to stop, a third-degree felony
  • Two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, a third-degree felony
  • Transaction of firearm by class 2 restricted person, a third-degree felony
  • Possession or use of a controlled substance, a class B misdemeanor
  • Driving on a suspended license, a class C misdemeanor

Tonga’s bail was set at $31,020.


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