Skip to main content
Press Release

SoCal Trio Charged with Armed Robberies During One-Week Spree in Which Their Flight from Police Resulted in Fatal Car Crash

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – 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 – a crime spree that ended in the death of an innocent bystander in a fatal car accident while the defendants fled from police, the Justice Department announced today.

The following defendants have been charged via a criminal complaint filed last Wednesday with Hobbs Act robbery and using and carrying a firearm during an in relation to a crime of violence:

  • 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. Law enforcement continues to search for Iakopo.

According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, the defendants committed three armed robberies from September 22 to September 29 in Downey, Compton, and South El Monte. In each of the robberies, one of the robbers allegedly used a short-style rifle to control the cashier and customers while another robber took full cash registers or drawers before all the robbers fled in an SUV.

Specifically, on September 27, the three defendants allegedly robbed a Compton gas station. One of the robbers, believed to be Salanoa, was caught on surveillance footage approximately 10 minutes before the robbery casing the store in preparation to rob it. The robbers left briefly before returning. Another robber, believed to be Iakopo, grabbed and detached the cash register from the counter. The final robber, believed to be Maea, pointed a rifle at the cashier and customers preventing them from exiting the store. The robbers allegedly stole approximately $1,500 inside the cash register and fled in a stolen Range Rover.

Two days later, two 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. In total, the robbers stole approximately $350 to $400. The robbers then fled in the stolen Range Rover.

On October 9, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies found the stolen Range Rover, which allegedly sped off and almost immediately hit another car, killing a civilian motorist inside. The suspects then ran away, but deputies found Iakopo hiding in a trash can in the area, the affidavit alleges. Deputies later found clothing believed to belong to Maea beside a small crawl space under a nearby house. Inside the stolen Range Rover, deputies found clothing, identification and a cellphone believed to belong to Maea, according to the affidavit.

A criminal complaint contains allegations. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

If convicted of both charges, each defendant would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for the Hobbs Act robbery count and up to life in federal prison for the firearm count.

The FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are investigating this matter. The Los Angeles Police Department, the El Monte Police Department, and the Downey Police Department provided assistance.

Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin J. Butler and Jena A. MacCabe of the Violent and Organized Crime Section are prosecuting this case.


Ciaran McEvoy
Public Information Officer
(213) 894-4465

Updated November 2, 2023

Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 23-236