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6 alleged gang members accused of 20 robberies

Published April 8, 2008 12:59 am
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A nine-month investigation into a string of armed robberies around the Salt Lake Valley ended with the arrest of six suspected gang members over the weekend.

Salt Lake City police announced Monday the arrest of six people believed to be members of the Tongan Crip Gang on suspicion of armed robbery in connection with as many as 20 robberies, said Salt Lake City spokesman Jared Wihongi.

Police over the weekend arrested Filikisi Hafoka, 19; Villiami Loumoli, 20; John Tuakalau, 20; Daniel Maumau, 21; Sally Hutcherson, 25; and Fatafehi Lauti, 32. All are residents of Salt Lake City, Wihongi said.

The group is suspected in a number of robberies, including a July 24 incident in which a 7-Eleven clerk was shot during a beer robbery at 515 N. 300 West in Salt Lake City. The group also is believed to be responsible for robberies at stores and restaurants, including Rancheritos, Gen X Clothing and Chuck-A-Rama, Wihongi said.

The gang, known as TCG, received notoriety recently when a member allegedly killed Wally Knapton, 49, during a robbery March 12 at a Glendale Family Dollar. Police arrested 18-year-old Biu Olive, 19-year-old Sarah Ataata and a 13-year-old in connection with the incident.

The Tongan Crip Gang has been among Salt Lake City's most active in recent months, Wihongi said, and the arrest of six members could limit their power.

"We think we've arrested a lot of the individuals responsible for a lot of that activity," he said.

Knapton's homicide is the first in Salt Lake City to be tied to the Tongan Crip Gang since 21-year-old Solomone Tuifau was shot and killed at a post-wedding celebration in February 2007, Deputy U.S. Marshal Rick Simonelli recently told The Salt Lake Tribune.

In addition to probable robbery charges, one person arrested over the weekend will likely face attempted homicide charges in connection with an Aug. 11 incident in which Simonelli had shots fired at him by the gang member, Wihongi said. He said he couldn't identify which gang member is expected to be charged with attempted murder.

Fourteen agencies participated in the investigation that led to the execution of search warrants over the weekend.

Wihongi said police seized more than 20 firearms from gang members.

The suspects were booked into the Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of multiple felonies, including aggravated robbery and illegal possession of firearms.





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