Former welder sentenced to 66 months jail after breaking into Tumwater credit union with blowtorch

Jun 25, 2024, 11:03 AM | Updated: 11:47 am

A man who broke into and burglarized a Tumwater credit union with a blowtorch in October 2022 was sentenced to 66 months in prison in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

The man, Randall Taufete’e, was a trained welder who used an oxyacetylene torch, according to U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Due to the use of a blowtorch, he was charged with arson alongside a charge of attempted larceny. He pled guilty on March 15.

“Arson is an extremely serious offense,” U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle said at Tuesday’s hearing. “It destroys property and risks harm to the lives of others, including firefighters. You’re fortunate you didn’t set the entire structure on fire.”

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Tumwater firefighters responded to a fire alarm at O Bee Credit Union, finding flames coming from the top of the ATM attached to a wall of the building. Once the fire was extinguished, investigators found char and pry marks on the ATM, on the night deposit box, the drive-thru window and an exterior door. Surveillance video later revealed two men used a pry bar, an electric saw and an oxyacetylene welder’s torch to try to open the ATM and gain access to the building.

In total, the thieves caused $198,018 worth of damage to the building.

Taufete’e was located and taken into state custody a few days after the fire for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Agents were then able to identify Taufete’e as one of the men in the surveillance video breaking into the credit union with various tools, including a blowtorch.

Taufete’e denied his involvement, but the second person involved, Brandon Ronald Collado, pled guilty in June 2023 and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Taufete’e did not plead guilty until March 2024.

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Prosecutors with the Department of Justice found that Taufete’e has more than a dozen criminal convictions of various counts as an adult. His convictions included theft, assault, robbery, burglary and possession of firearms.

“Taufete’e will be on three years of supervised release following his prison term,” Gorman stated. “He and Collado and will be required to pay $198,018 in restitution for the damage to the credit union.”

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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