SEAL BEACH (CBSLA) — Police in Seal Beach Saturday said some suspects wanted in connection for the Jan. 28 robbery of a Sprint wireless store were arrested Tuesday in an attempt to rob a similar store in Santa Barbara.
Police in Santa Barbara said Tafilele Puaauli, 45, and Vaafatu Matvia, 35, used a ruse about 4 p.m. Tuesday to enter the store at 1011 State St. which was occupied but closed for business, according to Seal Beach Police Sgt. Michael Henderson.
Once inside they allegedly pulled out a gun, locked the two employees inside a bathroom and took a number of Apple products with a value of approximately $130,000. The suspects left out a back door to a city parking lot where a car was waiting for them, Henderson said.
Officers were able to locate video surveillance footage which showed the getaway vehicle and its license plate. That information was broadcast to police agencies which included the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol, he said.
A short time later, CHP officers spotted the suspects’ vehicle stuck in approaching traffic in Carpinteria. The suspects fled the vehicle just before the Carpinteria Avenue exit, leaving footprints in the mud which led over some train tracks, he said.
One of the suspects was bitten by a police K-9 and the other was taken into custody without incident.
“Officers located a loaded firearm in the suspect vehicle along with the stolen merchandise,” Henderson said. “Subsequent investigation revealed two additional co-conspirators were also involved in the robbery.”
In coordination with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Crystal Viramontes, 29, of South Gate and Mianuel Bringas, 27, were also taken into custody.
All four suspects were booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of robbery, kidnapping and conspiracy charges.
Matvia, a resident of Carson, Puaauli, a resident of Harbor City, and Viramontes have been identified as the suspects in the Jan. 28 robbery in Seal Beach, police said.
“Firearms and stolen property were recovered as a result of the arrests and subsequent search warrants,” Henderson said.
Seal Beach police detectives asked anyone with information regarding the Jan. 28 robbery to call them at 562-799-4100, ext. 1109.
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