A 21-year-old man suspected of at least two armed street robberies in Palo Alto could face a "three strikes" sentence that could put him behind bars for life if convicted, a Santa Clara County prosecutor said Friday (Jan. 7).
Vilivuni Fono of East Palo Alto faces two robbery charges -- one felony charge each for hold-ups of residents on Oct. 27 and Nov. 5 2010, Deputy District Attorney James Demertzis said. Fono is being held on $100,000 bail in Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose.
If convicted on all counts under three-strikes Fono would face 25 years to life, he said.
Court documents show that Fono was previously convicted when a juvenile of carjacking and making criminal threats, both felonies.
The U.S. Supreme Court in April 2010 upheld the authority of California judges to count felony convictions of juveniles as strikes when determining if an adult felon should be sentenced to life in prison.
In California, if the adult was convicted of a serious or violent crime when 16 or 17 it can be considered a strike.
Demertzis said he could not comment on whether Fono has a prior criminal history.
Fono and another as-yet-unidentified male allegedly approached a man as he was entering his Fulton Street apartment complex on Oct. 27. One of the men is alleged to have pulled out a small-caliber handgun and pointed it at the victim's stomach.
The two men allegedly robbed the victim in the complex's lobby, taking his iPad, a gold and jade necklace, a messenger bag, wallet and earphones, police reported. The victim identified Fono as the gunman in a photo lineup, according to the police report.
During the Nov. 5 robbery, Fono and a 16-year-old juvenile male allegedly approached a man on Forest Avenue near downtown Pslo Alto. They allegedly took the man's wallet after pointing a gun at the victim and pistol-whipping him.
The victim sustained a swollen black eye. He later identified the juvenile suspect as the one who held the gun and pistol-whipped him, according to the police report.
The juvenile has admitted his part in the Nov. 5 robbery, according to a police report. He led police to a black replica 6 mm Airsoft Desert Eagle pistol hidden outside his family home, the report stated.
Fono's girlfriend, Ana Loiloi Umufuke, 24, also of East Palo Alto, is charged with one count of robbery -- she was arrested Nov. 23.
She has admitted to being the driver of the getaway car, a red 2003 Dodge Durango, according to police reports. Umufuke has denied she knew what the two males were doing, officers wrote.
Fono is scheduled to appear in court in Palo Alto on Jan. 14; Umufuke is scheduled to appear on Jan. 26.