Man arrested in South Lake Tahoe in connection with bizarre Vallejo robbery case
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The FBI released details from an unsealed affidavit Monday of a kidnapping and robbery case that stretches throughout California and led to the arrest of at least one suspect in South Lake Tahoe.
On June 8, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office detectives conducted a search of a South Lake Tahoe home on Genoa Avenue associated with suspect Matthew Muller, 38, of Orangevale, according to an FBI press release. The agents found him in the home and placed him under arrest. Muller “mainly resides” in South Lake Tahoe, according to the affidavit.
Muller is connected to the robbery of a home in Vallejo in which a man was drugged and a woman was kidnapped, according to the FBI. The case was surrounded by unusual circumstances and, after the suspect was gone, the male victim was ordered to say the money stolen from financial accounts was used to buy a ski boat.
Though the names of two victims involved in the crime were not included in the affidavit, news agencies nationwide have reported the case resembles that of Denise Huskins, 29, who was found in Huntington Beach and said she had been kidnapped from her home March 23.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Vallejo police were skeptical, calling the case a ‘wild goose chase’ and a waste of police resources. Authorities from the Northern California town even warned that Huskins and her boyfriend, who said he was drugged during the kidnapping, could face criminal charges themselves for making a false report.”
Gina Swankie, a spokeswoman with the FBI in Sacramento, said Tuesday she could not confirm a link between the two cases. She also stated it was an ongoing investigation and could not say if the FBI was searching for more suspects.
Swankie added that the affidavit was unsealed because the FBI is in search of other victims who might have experienced similar crimes.
The affidavit also stated that, on June 7, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office (EDSO) detectives informed the FBI of a stolen white 2011 Ford Mustang near the Genoa Avenue residence. Muller’s driver’s license was reportedly found in the car.
With the information provided by the EDSO, the Alameda County Sheriff’s detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Muller that same day and arrested him June 8, according to the affidavit.
On June 29, the FBI obtained a warrant for Muller’s arrest for the alleged kidnapping of a Vallejo woman, according to the FBI release. The case remains an active, ongoing investigation by the FBI, the Vallejo Police Department and Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.
According to the affidavit, on March 23, at approximately 1:53 p.m., a man called the Vallejo Police Department to report his home had been broken into during the early morning hours and an unknown person or people forcibly drugged both him and the woman and used his car to take the woman to an unknown location.
Victim statements to Vallejo Police Department officers and FBI agents indicate the victims fell asleep in the master bedroom during the early morning hours of March 23. The man was awakened by a bright light shining in his eyes, a noise that was similar to a “stun gun” and the voice of a man who demanded both victims lie face down on the bed.
The suspect or suspects ordered the woman to bind the male victim with zip ties and told both to enter the bedroom closet. A suspect covered the man’s eyes with swim goggles and tape-covered lenses to restrict vision and, once the victim was in the closet, placed a pair of headphones over his ears. The headphones were used to play a prerecorded message that provided instructions. The message indicated that the break-in was being performed by a professional group on-site to collect financial debts and threatened that both victims would be hurt by electric shock or by cutting their faces if either of the two victims did not comply. The suspect or suspects then obtained financial account numbers and passwords from the man, the press release stated. Information for the residence’s Wi-Fi router, the man’s laptop and certain Internet accounts were also obtained by the suspect.
The man was placed on the couch and was told he was being watched on camera and to not try to free himself, according to the press release. The man requested a blanket because he was cold, and the suspect replied that he was unaware of the temperature because he was wearing a wet suit. The male victim fell asleep on the couch for a period of time, and, when he awoke later the same day, he freed himself. He then noticed the woman, his laptop and his car were missing. The man was able to locate his and the woman’s cellphones. His phone contained a voicemail message with a financial demand and instructions to tell those who inquired about his transactions to say the funds were for purchase of a ski boat.
On the morning of March 25, the woman was released in Huntington Beach, Calif.
During the early morning hours of June 5, deputies from the Dublin Police Services, of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, responded to a report of a home invasion robbery. During the course of their investigation, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office detectives were able to identify Muller as a suspect in the investigation.
On June 25, the FBI met with investigators of the Dublin Police Services and determined there were similarities between the June 5 case and elements of the March 23 kidnapping.
FBI investigators think Muller may have committed similar crimes elsewhere.
The FBI urges anyone who believes they might have been the victim of a similar crime and law enforcement agencies aware of similar crimes to contact agents with the Sacramento Field Office of the FBI by calling 1-800-225-5324.
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