SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — A Sultan man, who is an Asian American and Pacific Islander, is being charged with a hate crime and multiple robberies after prosecutors say he targeted several Asian-owned spas in the Puget Sound area from April to June.
According to charging documents, Tuli Aumaunofo Kalani Tevaga is being charged with four counts of first-degree robbery and one count of a hate crime.
Tevaga targeted the spas “based on his perception that the race of (the) parlors’ owner suggested they would be engaged in illegal activity, thus unlikely to report his crimes to law enforcement,” court documents state.
Tevaga is believed to have possessed a gun during the robberies.
The first robbery reportedly occurred on April 21 at a massage parlor located in the 11600 block of State Avenue in Marysville.
According to court records, a man called and scheduled a massage and arrived at the appointed time. After services were performed, he told the workers he did not have money and claimed he would call a friend to bring him the funds.
After 15 minutes, the man showed a gun and pushed a worker while threatening to kill her if she didn’t give him money, charging documents state.
The victim told police the man took her wallet, purse, bracelet and cellphone.
The victim suffered an injury to her upper chest, which was described as two large scratch marks that were 1 to 2 inches long.
The suspect fled in a vehicle, but investigators were able to look at surveillance video that showed the man leaving the business at 11:21 p.m.
Investigators also determined the phone number used to schedule the appointment at the parlor was used to place a 911 call in October of 2021.
The person who made the call said she had given her son permission to use her vehicle but reported he did not return it as scheduled. That call helped investigators link Tevaga to the robbery, court records state.
On April 28, investigators also learned of another robbery at an Asian-owned parlor in Seattle. It occurred 23 hours after the robbery in Marysville.
Police said the methods used in the Seattle robbery were similar to the robbery in Marysville.
After several more robberies similar in nature were committed at spas in May and June, investigators were able to identify their prime suspect based on the phone number used to schedule the appointments, surveillance video and witness information.
Investigators arrested Tevaga on June 9 without incident.
In an interview with investigators, Tevaga admitted to the robberies and said he had committed the same type of robbery at dozens of other massage parlors in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, according to court records.
Charging documents state Tevaga admitted to intentionally targeting Asian parlors due to the perceptions regarding race but not to any race-based hostility.
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