PROVO Brigham Young University running back Manase Tonga was arrested after a traffic stop early Tuesday morning for allegedly failing to pay a traffic ticket and giving a fake name to Provo police.
An officer pulled Tonga over at 12:50 a.m. for failing to stop at a stop sign at the corner of 500 North and 500 East, Provo Police Sgt. Richard Dewey said.
A warrant was out for the arrest of Tonga, 23, because he had not paid an $82 ticket for running a stop sign in August 2006, according to court documents.
Dewey said Tonga told the officer Tuesday morning that his name was Fifa Tonga.
"He knew he had a warrant out for his arrest, so whenever the officer asked his name, he gave a false name," Dewey said. "It was a totally fictitious name, which is good for him. It's a higher charge if someone gives another person's real name."
The officer issued citations to Tonga for failure to stop, for driving a car with an expired registration and providing false personal information to a police officer.
Assistant Provo City Attorney Steve Schreiner had not seen the case. He said giving a fictitious identity to a police officer can be a class C misdemeanor, the equivalent of many traffic citations.
The arresting officer booked Tonga into the Utah County Jail at 1:30 a.m.
Jail officials released Tonga to a Daniel Turagavou at about 2:50 a.m. after Turagavou paid $2,357 in bail and bonds.
BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall is aware of the situation but has not spoken with Tonga and was out of town Thursday and unavailable for comment, said Jeff Reynolds, BYU's sports information director.
"Once coach Mendenhall returns, he will gather the necessary details and then determine an appropriate response," Reynolds said.
Team officials expressed surprise at the incident because of Tonga's good reputation on the team. Tonga is an Eagle Scout who served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Honduras.
Tonga will be a junior this fall and is expected to challenge Fui Vakapuna for the lead running back role during fall camp next month.
Tonga ran for 197 yards and four touchdowns last year, including the opening score in BYU's white-knuckle win over rival Utah.
Tonga also caught 23 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns, including a 17-yard touchdown catch in BYU's victory over Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The running back's younger brother, Matangi Tonga, played all 13 of BYU's games last year as a freshman defensive lineman but withdrew from school this spring after Mendenhall suspended him indefinitely because he has been charged with burglary.
Both Tongas played at Aragon High School in San Mateo, Calif., where their cousin, Seta Pohahau, is preparing for his senior year. Pohahau has committed to sign with BYU in February to play running back for the Cougars in 2008.
Provo police ticketed Manase Tonga in August 2006 for failing to stop at a stop sign. Tonga didn't pay the fine and a warrant was issued for his arrest in November.
Provo police ticketed Tonga again on April 23 for failing to stop at a stop sign and expired registration, but he was not arrested then on the warrant. Dewey didn't know if the officer involved in that stop warned Tonga about the arrest warrant.Comment on this story
Tonga's arrest is similar to a December 2005 incident when two Utah Jazz players gave false names to police after a fight in Park City.
Deron Williams told police his name was Torrey Ellis. Robert Whaley, who no longer is with the team, said his name was Bobby Williams. Both players also provided fictitious dates of birth.
The Jazz fined both players and suspended Whaley for a game. Charged with misdemeanors for providing false information to police, Deron Williams pleaded guilty and Whaley pleaded no contest in Summit County's justice court.Each paid a $175 fine.