Spa robber pleads no contest, avoids life-in-prison sentence

One of three men accused of terrorizing two women during a brazen San Mateo day-spa heist avoided a life-in-prison sentence after accepting a plea deal Wednesday.

Scott Tong, 24, of San Francisco, will face a minimum of 12 years in prison and a maximum of 29 years and four months when he is sentenced June 4, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Tong pleaded no contest to four counts of robbery and one count of residential burglary and admitted to using a gun in the crime. In exchange, prosecutors dropped four counts of kidnapping, two counts of false imprisonment, a commercial burglary charge and four additional counts of robbery.

Prosecutors say Tong and two other men — Samuel Lim and Derek Wong — burst into the Belbian Day Spa with guns on June 11, 2006, just as two employees were closing up. The robbers bound and blindfolded the women and put duct tape over their mouths, Wagstaffe said. The men then took the employees to separate rooms and threatened to kill them before taking cash, cell phones and keys, Wagstaffe said.

“There was an incredible fear suffered by the victims. It’s not too much different than what we read about insurgents doing with their kidnap victims in Iraq. They engaged in terrorist conduct,” Wagstaffe said.

Tong is the last of the three men to accept a plea deal. On Feb. 14, a judge sentenced Wong, a 21-year-old San Bruno resident, to five years in prison. Lim, an 18-year-old San Francisco man, was sentenced on March 14 to nine years behind bars.

Reached Wednesday, one of the victims of the robbery said she had no comment on Tong’s plea deal, but said she believes a former employee set up the heist and that the woman should also face charges.

After arresting the three men, authorities found a detailed map of the spa’s interior, but prosecutors were never able to conclusively tie the robbery to the former employee, Wagstaffe said.

tbarak@examiner.com

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