Arrest by GPD leads to federal investigation - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Arrest by GPD leads to federal investigation

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - A federal investigation is underway into a man whose arrival to Guam and his purpose here has been questioned by authorities. Steve Vincent Zapata came to Guam on April 13 after a brief stay in Japan. After being picked up by Tumon-Tamuning Precinct officers last week for loitering, Zapata is now behind bars in federal custody, accused of making a false statement to authorities.  

According to court documents, Zapata is accused of lying to authorities about bringing only one bag to Guam.  To most it wouldn't seem like a big deal, but apparently what Zapata failed to mention has prompted an investigation that continued through the weekend. 

When Zapata was picked up by local police, they learned that he is wanted in the state of California for traffic violations. Zapata was only carrying a bag when he was picked up by police and inside officers found a receipt for a storage unit he rented earlier in the week.  Now Zapata's previous travel history must have raised serious red flags for federal agents who then obtained a search warrant to see what the man had put in storage.

Court documents indicate that a member of the Joint Terrorist Task Force, Police Captain Eric Fisher, informed special agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that Zapata had previously traveled to Pakistan, a source country for narcotics and a country well known for its presence of Al-Qaeda and Taliban and other terrorists.  In fact the 50-year-old stayed in Pakistan for 38 days before he came to Guam after a short stay in Japan.

While authorities aren't saying much about a search warrant they executed at a storage unit at I&E Storage Systems on Saturday morning, KUAM News did speak to neighbors who said they saw military personnel and federal authorities and sports utility vehicles going in and out of the usually quiet neighborhood off Tun Jesus Crisostomo Street in Tamuning.

KUAM cameras caught a group at a staging area at the Sunny Wholesale parking lot nearby.  We're told a bomb detection unit was called to search the entire storage facility as well as K-9 dogs to determine what Zapata had stored in a 4-x-4 unit.  Inside a locked gate, we saw Zapata's black duffle bag with the search warrant attached to it.

According to court documents, Zapata had first told authorities he had only come to Guam with the bag that he had on him at the time he was arrested for loitering.  He later admitted to having the storage bag that he claimed contained valuable items to include bike parts, Japanese tea, sake and books.  

The criminal complaint filed with the District Court indicated that criminal history checks revealed that he had multiple arrests for the use of and under the influence of controlled substances while he lived in Stockton, California from 1989 to 2004.  The Guam Police Department and the Guam National Guard would not comment on the search warrant executed on Saturday, referring us to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

All three entities wouldn't comment on whether they believe Zapata was involved in terrorism, but even Governor Felix Camacho had been briefed about the case.  he confirmed that he was informed by officials about a possible terrorist implication on Guam and an ongoing investigation, but when asked for more information, he replied, "The lead agency is the FBI, I think its best that should anything be discussed it would be the FBI."

What authorities found inside the duffel bag and why it hasn't been taken into evidence yet remains unclear, as the FBI isn't commenting.

Zapata, meanwhile, indicated that he had been living in Hillsboro, Florida, working as a cook at a country club there. He told a federal judge today that he came to Guam looking for a job.  After today's hearing Zapata was remanded to custody and the court scheduled a detention hearing for May 3 with a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 10.

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