A man who is responsible for two brazen street robberies that terrorized Palo Alto residents beginning in September 2010 pleaded guilty to the crimes Friday (May 20) in Santa Clara County Superior Court in Palo Alto, Deputy District Attorney James Demertzis said.
Vilivuni Fono, 21, of East Palo Alto, was arrested Jan. 5 and was charged with two robberies, which are felonies, for an incident on Oct. 27, 2010, at an apartment complex on Fulton Street near downtown and a Nov. 5, 2010, robbery on Forest Avenue and Cowper Street.
His girlfriend, Ana Loiloi Umufuke, 24, also of East Palo Alto, was accused of driving Fono and her 16-year-old brother to the scene of the Nov. 5 robbery. She also pleaded guilty Friday.
During the November incident, a 2003 red Dodge Durango approached the victim on Forest Avenue. The two males, who were later identified by police as Fono and the juvenile, exited the car and demanded the victim's wallet at gunpoint. The victim was pistol-whipped and received a black eye.
The Durango was later located in East Palo Alto. The juvenile was arrested and identified by the victim as the gunman who pistol-whipped him, according to Palo Alto police.
The 16-year-old admitted his part in the robbery, according to a police report. He led police to a black replica 6 mm Airsoft Desert Eagle pistol hidden outside his family home, according to the report.
Umufuke was arrested on Nov. 19, 2010, in connection with the robbery. Detectives have said she waited for the pair and drove the getaway car after the robbery. She previously denied any knowledge of what her boyfriend and brother were doing. Information discovered during the investigation led to Fono, police said.
In the October incident, two men approached a 27-year-old man near his apartment complex and stole his wallet and messenger bag at gunpoint on Fulton Street near University Avenue, police said. The victim positively identified Fono as the man wielding the firearm, according to police.
Fono will receive five years in state prison for the two felonies. His convictions will count as two strikes under California law, Demertzis said. He could serve 25 years to life if he commits a third felony and is convicted. Court documents show he was previously convicted of carjacking and making criminal threats, both felonies, when he was a juvenile.
Umufuke will receive 45 days in county jail for one count of robbery. She has no prior offenses, but if she commits another felony, her sentence could be doubled if she were to be convicted, according to Demertzis. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 1 in Palo Alto.