Wellness Center theft suspect arrested again

By Alex Emslie
The Guardsman

A San Francisco man charged with recent thefts at the Ocean campus Wellness Center was arrested again for an unrelated April 2 robbery allegedly committed just nine days after he was granted supervised pre-trial release.

Maifala Tusi, 23, was arraigned April 6 on charges of robbery and felony possession of stolen property in connection to the theft of a laptop computer and iPhone from a 41-year-old man, according to a San Francisco District Attorney’s Office media release.

Those charges will be added to the four Tusi faces from the Wellness Center thefts and another burglary charge in Millbrae.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Buckelew said Tusi was released without bail, over the objections of the District Attorney’s office, following the Wellness Center arrest.

“We asked for bail to be set at $55,000 and the court released him,” he said about the charges. “There’s only so much we can do. The court makes the ultimate decision.”

Buckelew said there is reason to believe Tusi could commit another felony if released again, but with bail now set at $125,000 release is likely cost-prohibitive. To be released on bail Tusi would have to pay a bondsman a 10 percent, nonrefundable premium or pay the full bail amount himself.

“If you’re robbing people for iPhones, you probably don’t have an extra $12,500 lying around,” Buckelew said.

Stolen iPhone tracked
A man approached the victim at Van Ness Avenue and Oak Street then snatched his laptop, according to the media release. The victim chased, tackled and wrestled with the robber, dropping his iPhone during the scuffle.

A second man appeared and grabbed the iPhone while the first took the laptop. Both men jumped into a Lexus and fled the scene.

The victim told San Francisco police officers he could track his iPhone with a computer application that locates the phone’s GPS. The GPS information led police to Alice Griffith “Double Rock” Public Housing in the Bayview district where they spotted a parked Lexus and waited.

Tusi and Jerome J. Satele, 21, drove away in the Lexus about one hour later. The car was later pulled over by police, who saw Satele pass an iPhone to another passenger.

The victim was brought to 6th Street and Clara Alley where he identified Tusi, who is more than six feet tall and weighs 400 pounds, as the robber of his laptop. He identified Satele as the driver of the getaway car and the man who stole his iPhone.

Satele is not known to have any connection to the Wellness Center thefts, Buckelew said.

Nine days out of custody
From the time he secured supervised pre-trial release to the day of the iPhone arrest, Tusi had been out of police custody for only nine days, according to the media release.

“I’m not shocked,” Ingleside Station SFPD Sgt. James Miller said. “Judges let a lot of people out on low bail or no bail. I sometimes disagree with the system, but that’s the way it goes.”

Undercover officers from the Ingleside station assisted City College police in a sting operation that led to Tusi’s arrest on March 19.

“Private property crimes in San Francisco are undervalued by the criminal justice system,” Miller said. “I’m not saying that all these guys should be sent off to a state prison, by any means, but neither do I think they should walk out of jail the next day automatically. It happens too often.”

City College Police Department Sgt. Ted Russo said thefts in the Wellness Center locker rooms have dropped dramatically since Tusi’s March 19 arrest.

“Am I surprised that he was released and then committed another felony? Unfortunately, I’m not surprised,” Russo said. “There are a lot of issues with overcrowding in jails and the economy is so bad that people who are opportunists are looking for things to take. We advise students to keep an eye on their personal belongings.”

On-campus thefts usually decline after spring break and pick up again during finals, Russo said. He advised students to be extra vigilant at the end of the semester.

The Guardsman