Image: Google maps
Robbers targeted Magic Fingers spa in 2012, the same year the city of Berkeley voted to close it and other massage parlors. Image: Google maps

A 37-year-old Concord man is set to face charges after a 2012 robbery series in Berkeley that targeted the Magic Fingers massage parlor on University Avenue, which has since closed.

Samay Pomsouvanh was charged in the case in 2012, but he was not tried in the matter because he was sent to prison in connection with an armed robbery at the home of a prostitute in San Mateo.

Pomsouvanh was released from prison into the custody of the Alameda County sheriff’s department in early February to face the pending charges against him for the 2012 incidents in Berkeley.

According to court documents, Pomsouvanh and four associates — Quoc Bui, Eddie Chiwei Cheung, Aaron Boungnarith and Whitney Sullivan — were tied to robberies in 2012 at Magic Fingers, at 2047 University Ave. (west of Shattuck Avenue), on June 18, June 23, July 1 and July 6, along with another incident of robbery and carjacking June 27. The suspects reportedly posed as law enforcement officials, and tied up their victims with zip ties or duct tape during the robberies.

Pomsouvanh was not charged in connection with all of those incidents. The Alameda County district attorney’s office charged him with robbery in the June 18 incident; and carjacking, robbery, kidnapping for carjacking and kidnapping to commit robbery in the June 27 case.

In the June 27 incident, according to court papers, authorities allege that Pomsouvanh personally used a firearm and impersonated a peace officer. No further information about that case was available as of publication time.

Pomsouvanh is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing March 25, according to the Alameda County sheriff’s department.

Police summarized several of the incidents in court papers related to Pomsouvanh’s arrest.

  • June 18: Police wrote that, at 10:46 p.m., three males — including Pomsouvanh — went into Magic Fingers, bound numerous victims with zip ties, and threatened them with a gun. They took several cellphones, two computers and about $600 in cash.
  • June 23: According to police, two men and a woman went into Magic Fingers. The woman wore a DEA hat. She brandished a firearm at the victims, who were then tied up with zip ties and threatened with the gun. The suspects produced badges or IDs identifying them as law enforcement officers. The robbers took $1,600 in cash, jewelry and other items.
  • July 1: Three males — identified by the district attorney’s office as Boungnarith, Bui and Sullivan — went into Magic Fingers. One had a silver revolver. They took car keys from one of the victims and stole his vehicle from the parking lot, according to police. According to the district attorney’s office, Boungnarith was wearing a fake Immigration and Customs Enforcement Police raid vest. After entering, they bound the victims’ hands with duct tape and placed them in the break room. While the employees were tied up, the defendant again robbed the spa of money and took personal items.

The city of Berkeley moved to close Magic Fingers, along with at least 11 other massage parlors, in 2012 after a series of code enforcement violations and allegations of prostitution.

In 2013, a jury found Boungnarith guilty of two counts of robbery, according to the Alameda County district attorney’s office.

According to the Bay Area News Group, Pomsouvanh was sent to prison in 2013 for a San Mateo home invasion robbery of a prostitute at her home the prior July. In that incident, a witness told authorities that a woman had walked out of her home wearing only a T-shirt, with her hands tied behind her back. She told the witness she had been robbed and asked for help. Police who followed up found an associate of Pomsouvanh’s parked nearby in a vehicle, and in possession of the woman’s ID and cellphone, along with a real gun, a fake gun, zip ties and a police scanner.

Authorities said the incident was “part of a ring holding up Asian sex workers.” Pomsouvanh faced three years for his role in the case, and pleaded no contest in the matter in December 2012.

Kao Saeturn, another member of the crew, which authorities said was based in Oakland, was sentenced in 2010 after committing a “series of armed robberies targeting small businesses and their customers throughout the Bay Area,” according to the FBI.

Still another associate of the group, Choung Van Nguyen, was killed by Berkeley officers in West Berkeley in 2010 when he led police on a high-speed chase that began in Albany, crashed into a telephone pole, and shot at police officers who tried to detain him.

Read more about robberies in Berkeley in past Berkeleyside coverage. 

Police find empty house after reported hostage call (02.21.15)
Berkeley police arrest 2 after December killing (02.20.15)
Berkeleyside blotter: Crime in Berkeley, Feb. 5-11 (02.20.15)
Police link Berkeley felon to 6 gas station robberies (02.17.15)
Crack down on massage parlors suspected of prostitution (07.06.12)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...