In a shocking turn of events, three residents of Southern California are now facing charges of armed robberies during a one-week spree that culminated in a fatal car crash. The crime spree involved the robbery of a liquor store, gas station, and convenience store, with the suspects allegedly using firearms to intimidate both cashiers and customers. Tragically, during their attempt to flee from the police, an innocent bystander lost their life in a car accident. The defendants have been charged with Hobbs Act robbery and using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. This article will delve into the details of the robberies, the suspects involved, and the potential consequences they may face if convicted.
Charges and Defendants
Charges filed against three Southern California residents
Three Southern California residents have been charged in a federal criminal complaint with allegedly committing three armed robberies of a liquor store, gas station, and convenience store. The charges were filed last Wednesday and include Hobbs Act robbery and using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.
Defendants named in the criminal complaint
The defendants named in the criminal complaint are Kaelenn Maea, 26, of Long Beach; Salagi Iakopo, 30, of Carson; and Mathew Salanoa, 23, of Placentia. Maea and Salanoa are expected to make their initial appearances this afternoon in the United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles, while law enforcement continues to search for Iakopo.
Description of Crime Spree
Three armed robberies committed in one week
From September 22 to September 29, the defendants allegedly committed three armed robberies in Downey, Compton, and South El Monte. These robberies involved the use of firearms to intimidate victims and control the cashier and customers.
Robberies took place in Downey, Compton, and South El Monte
The three robberies took place in different locations, targeting a liquor store, gas station, and convenience store. These areas in Southern California experienced a heightened sense of fear and insecurity as a result of these criminal acts.
The use of a short-style rifle to control victims
One of the robbers in these incidents allegedly used a short-style rifle to assert control over the victims. This method of intimidation is particularly concerning, as it puts innocent individuals at risk and heightens the potential for violence.
Cash registers and drawers stolen during robberies
In each of the robberies, one of the robbers would take full cash registers or drawers, further exacerbating the financial impact of these crimes on local businesses. The stolen money represents not only a loss for the businesses involved but also a disruption to the local economy.
Escape in a stolen Range Rover
After each robbery, the suspects would escape in a stolen Range Rover, making it difficult for law enforcement to track their movements. The use of a stolen vehicle further demonstrates the calculated nature of their crimes and their disregard for the law.
Fatal car accident during police pursuit
Tragically, the crime spree came to a devastating end when the stolen Range Rover, being pursued by law enforcement, was involved in a fatal car accident. An innocent bystander lost their life as a result of the defendants’ efforts to evade capture.
Details of Robberies
September 27: Robbery of Compton gas station
On September 27, the defendants allegedly robbed a gas station in Compton. Surveillance footage captured one of the robbers, believed to be Salanoa, casing the store approximately 10 minutes before the robbery. The robbers stole approximately $1,500 from the cash register before fleeing in the stolen Range Rover.
September 29: Robbery of convenience store in South El Monte
Two days later, the defendants, believed to be Maea and Iakopo, robbed a convenience store in South El Monte. One of the robbers pointed a rifle at the cashier while the other robber stole the cash register drawer. The robbers made off with approximately $350 to $400 before fleeing in the stolen Range Rover.
Description of robbers and their actions
The criminal complaint includes detailed descriptions of the robbers and their actions during the robberies. It is essential for law enforcement and the public to be aware of these details in order to identify and apprehend the remaining defendant, Iakopo.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies finding the stolen Range Rover
On October 9, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies located the stolen Range Rover used in the robberies. This discovery provided a significant breakthrough in the investigation, as it allowed law enforcement to gather valuable forensic evidence.
Suspects fleeing from the scene
Upon discovering law enforcement’s presence, the suspects attempted to flee the scene. Their actions demonstrate their awareness of the criminal charges they faced and their determination to evade capture at all costs.
Arrest of one defendant, search for another
During the police pursuit, law enforcement officers were able to apprehend one defendant, Iakopo, who was found hiding in a trash can. However, the search for the remaining defendant, Maea, continues. Law enforcement agencies are actively coordinating their efforts to locate and apprehend him.
Evidence and Allegations
Surveillance footage of one defendant casing the store
Surveillance footage obtained during the investigation captured one of the defendants, Salanoa, casing the store before the Compton gas station robbery. This footage provides critical evidence to support the allegations against the defendants.
Clothing and belongings found in stolen Range Rover
Law enforcement discovered clothing, identification, and a cellphone believed to belong to one of the defendants, Maea, inside the stolen Range Rover. This evidence further links him to the crimes committed and strengthens the case against him.
Criminal complaint stating allegations
The criminal complaint filed against the defendants outlines the allegations made against them. While it is important to remember that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, the complaint serves as a formal document that details the charges they are facing.
Potential sentences if convicted of charges
If convicted of both charges, each defendant would face significant legal consequences. The statutory maximum sentence for the Hobbs Act robbery count is 20 years in federal prison, while the firearm count carries a potential sentence of life in federal prison.
Maximum sentence for Hobbs Act robbery count
The Hobbs Act robbery count is a serious offense that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. This count acknowledges the impact of the defendants’ actions on the victims and the community.
Maximum sentence for firearm count
The firearm count is a particularly grave offense, as it involves the use of firearms during the commission of a crime of violence. If convicted, the defendants could face a maximum sentence of life in federal prison, reflecting the severity of this offense.
Law Enforcement Agencies Involved
FBI and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department leading the investigation
The FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have taken the lead in investigating these crimes. Their expertise and resources will be crucial in bringing the defendants to justice and ensuring the safety of the community.
Assistance provided by Los Angeles Police Department, El Monte Police Department, and Downey Police Department
Local law enforcement agencies, such as the Los Angeles Police Department, El Monte Police Department, and Downey Police Department, have provided invaluable assistance in this investigation. Their collaboration with federal authorities demonstrates the importance of cooperation between agencies in addressing criminal activity.
Names of prosecutors handling the case
Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin J. Butler and Jena A. MacCabe of the Violent and Organized Crime Section are prosecuting this case. Their experience and dedication will be instrumental in presenting a strong case against the defendants.
Public Information Officer’s contact details
For more information on this case or any inquiries related to it, please contact Ciaran McEvoy, the Public Information Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (213) 894-4465. Mr. McEvoy will be able to provide updates on the progress of the investigation and answer any questions from the public or the media.
Updated date of the press release
This press release was last updated on November 2, 2023. It is important to stay informed about any developments or new information that may arise regarding this case.
Press releases from the Central District of California
The Central District of California has issued several press releases that provide additional information on relevant cases and ongoing investigations. These press releases serve as a valuable resource for individuals seeking a comprehensive understanding of criminal activities and law enforcement efforts in the district.
Indictment of MS-13 members for methamphetamine trafficking
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Charges against former Army private for child exploitation
Another press release details the charges brought against a former Army private for felony child exploitation. This case underscores the importance of protecting vulnerable individuals and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.
Arrests in sex trafficking operation at a massage parlor
A press release provides information about the arrests made in connection with a sex trafficking operation at a massage parlor. This case serves as a reminder of the ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking and protect victims from exploitation.
About the Central District of California
Address and contact information
The Central District of California is located at 312 North Spring Street, Suite 1200, Los Angeles, California 90012. For general inquiries or assistance, individuals can contact the district by phone at 213-894-2400 or by fax at 213-894-0141.
Social media and website links
The Central District of California maintains a strong online presence through various social media platforms and their official website. These resources provide additional information and updates on cases, initiatives, and community outreach programs.
Archives and legal policies
Individuals can access archives of press releases, court documents, and other relevant materials on the Central District of California’s website. The district also provides information on legal policies and guidelines to ensure transparency and clarity to the public.