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SAN FRANCISCO – The Office of the United States Attorney has charged five defendants—Sunia Mafileo Faavesi, Ryan Kentrell Montgomery, Paul Christopher Tonga, John Ioane Tupou, and Kyle Vehikite—with conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce for their roles in the March 17, 2023, robbery of Heller Jewelers in San Ramon, Calif., announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Cicolani. All the defendants except Tupou made their initial federal court appearance on July 27 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alex G. Tse to face the charges. Tupou remains at large.
According to a federal criminal complaint, filed July 21, 2023, and unsealed at the initial appearance, 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 of the 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 took place 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 provides details regarding how the defendants originally cased the location a week prior to 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 thereafter 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.
Faavesi, Montgomery, Tonga, and Vehikite all were arrested on July 26, 2023. The government has filed a motion asking that they be detained pretrial. Defendants’ next scheduled appearances are on August 1, 2023, and August 4, 2023, for their respective detention hearings.
A complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years, and a fine of $250,000. As part of any sentence, the court also may order defendants to pay restitution, if appropriate, and to serve an additional period of supervised release to begin after a prison term. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alethea M. Sargent is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Kay Konopaske. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the San Ramon Police Department and the ATF, with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the IRS, and Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.