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Two Samoan arrested in California over $1.1 million jewelry heist

Two Samoans are among the five men charged by the Office of the United States Attorney concerning a heist where approximately $1.1 million in jewelry and watches were stolen from a family-owned store in California.


Sunia Mafileo Faavesi, Ryan Kentrell Montgomery, Paul Christopher Tonga, John Ioane Tupou, and Kyle Vehikite—are facing conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce for their roles in the March 17, 2023, robbery of Heller Jewelers.


United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Cicolani announced this.


All the defendants except Tupou made their initial federal court appearance; he remains at large. According to a federal criminal complaint filed July 21, 2023, Faavesi, 30, Montgomery, 35, Tonga, 33, Tupou, 30, and Vehikite, 34, planned and executed the armed heist, which involved at least eleven individuals, some armed, taking approximately $1.1 million in stolen watches and jewelry from the family-owned San Ramon jewelry store.


The complaint alleges that while some participants were inside the store or immediately outside it during the armed robbery, others acted as lookouts and get-away drivers of at least four waiting vehicles.


The robbery occurred at a bustling mall in San Ramon in the middle of the afternoon and resulted in multiple bystanders, including children, fleeing the masked and armed robbers.


The complaint affidavit details how the defendants originally cased the location a week before the robbery and then returned on March 17, 2023, with co-conspirators to execute the robbery.


The complaint alleges investigators were able to identify one of the defendants by evaluating GPS information emitted from a stolen Rolex watch. Law enforcement investigators, after that, conducted a covert investigation that ultimately enabled them to identify each of the five defendants and to piece together the movements of the defendants on the day of the robbery.


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