A trio of suspects were charged on Thursday for an alleged robbery spree across L.A. County that eventually ended in a deadly crash.
The suspects were identified as:
– Kaelenn Maea, 26, of Long Beach
– Salagi Iakopo, 30, of Carson
– Mathew Salanoa, 23, of Placentia
From Sept. 22 to 29, the suspects were allegedly responsible for several armed robberies across Downey, Compton and South El Monte, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In each robbery, one suspect would reportedly use a “short-style rifle to control the cashier and customers” while another suspect would steal full cash registers or drawers before they all fled the scene in a getaway car.
On Sept. 27, the trio allegedly robbed a Compton gas station. One suspect was caught on surveillance video casing the store about 10 minutes before the robbery. The group then left briefly before returning.
As one suspect detached the cash register from the counter, another suspect pointed a rifle at the cashier and customers to prevent them from leaving. They escaped with around $1,500 in cash and fled the scene in a stolen Range Rover, authorities said.
On Sept. 29, two suspects allegedly robbed a convenience store in South El Monte. One suspect pointed a rifle at the cashier while the other stole cash from the register drawer. In total, they escaped with around $350 to $400. They were seen driving away in the stolen Range Rover, officials said.
On Oct. 9, L.A. County sheriff’s deputies spotted the stolen Range Rover and attempted to pull it over. The driver allegedly “sped off and almost immediately hit another car, killing a civilian motorist inside,” court documents said.
The suspects then left the vehicle and fled on foot. Deputies later found one suspect hiding in a trash can. Clothing from another suspect was found beside a small crawl space under a nearby home. Inside the stolen Range Rover, deputies found clothing, identification and a suspect’s cell phone.
All three were charged with Hobbs Act robbery and using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Maea and Salano are in custody, while Iakopo remains at large.
If convicted of both charges, each suspect faces up to 20 years in prison for the Hobbs Act robbery count and up to life in prison for the firearm count.
The case remains under investigation by the FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.