BRANDON Lizama Benavente and Vincent DLG Pua are accused of robbing two women in central Garapan on Sept. 8, 2021.

Benavente, 37, and Pua, 29, on Monday appeared before Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho who imposed a $15,000 cash bail on each defendant.

The two are charged with robbery, according to Assistant Attorney General Steve Kessel who said the offense is punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment and $10,000 fine.

Assistant Public Defender Emily Thompson, who was appointed by the court to represent Pua, asked the court to allow her client to post 10% of the bail amount. 

As for Benavente, Judge Camacho said the court will appoint an attorney to represent him as the public defender’s office will be in conflict if it represents him. The judge did not elaborate.

Benavente, without a lawyer, also asked that he be allowed to post 10% of the bail amount.

The judge did not rule on the defendants’ request, and the two were remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections. They were ordered to return to court on Sept. 22 at 10 a.m. for a preliminary hearing and on Sept. 27 for an arraignment.

Police said it interviewed one of the two victims through a Chinese interpreter.

Prior to the incident, police learned, the two victims were playing at Club 88 when one of them received a call from a friend at around 9:19 p.m., asking to meet them at a karaoke bar. One of the victims then cashed out her winnings, amounting to $60, and she and her companion exited through the back door.

One of the victims said as they were walking toward the karaoke bar, a black sedan heading south on the same street stopped beside them.  A man whose face was covered with clothing came out, grabbed her from behind and asked her to give her wallet.

She said the man grabbed her wallet from under her armpit and ran back to the black sedan, entered its front passenger side, and drove away.

In a freely given statement to the police, Benavente said prior to the incident, he saw his friend Pua at Club 88.

Benavente said when he finished playing he got up and exited though the back door. He said Pua followed him and asked Benavente if he had “smokes,” referring to methamphetamine. Benavente said he didn’t have any.

“Minutes later they saw two Chinese female individuals exit Club 88…and saw one of them was holding a purse and the other lady was holding a wallet.”

The two defendants decided to rob the women, but Benavente said he told Pua “never mind” and to “just forget about it.”

Pua, for his part, told Benavente, “No par, there’s no turning back, we have to do this now.”

Benavente admitted that he jumped out of the car, grabbed the lady’s wallet, and jumped back into the vehicle. He also said Pua threw the victim’s cell phone by the parking lot next to Club 88’s back exit door “because it began ringing like an alarm.”

Benavente said they drove to Pua’s house where they counted the money. Benavente said he then asked to be dropped at Dollar Poker where they separated.

He said the next day he met with Pua and his girlfriend and he gave them foreign currency from the victim’s wallet.

Police did not indicate how much was taken from the victim’s wallet.

In his statement to the police, Pua stated that prior to the incident, he arrived at Club 88 and saw Benavente who asked him to follow him to his car, a black Kia Sportage.

Pua said when he got into the front passenger seat, Benavente started driving toward Orchid Poker before parking the car.

Pua said Benavente then jumped up from his seat and told Pua to drive. “You better f****** drive or I will f*** you up!” Pua quoted Benavente as saying. “I will get some s***,” Benavente added.

Pua told police that he did not know what Benavente was talking about, but he had “no choice but to drive.”

Pua said he was driving northbound on Puti Tainobiu Ave. when Benavente “jumped out of the car and grabbed something from a lady and jumped back into [the] car.”

Reporter

Bryan Manabat studied criminal justice at Northern Marianas College. He covers the community, tourism, business, police and court beats.

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