Man allegedly stole car, then repainted and modified it


A man allegedly stole a car that was parked in Chalan Piao last month, then repainted and modified it to avoid detection from its owner.

The suspect, Christopher Lee Muna, 30, was arrested last week for theft of vehicle, tampering with vehicle, and receiving stolen property.

At a hearing last Thursday, Superior Court Kenneth L. Govendo imposed a $15,000 cash bail and appointed chief public defender Douglas Hartig as counsel for the defendant.

Preliminary hearing will be today, Wednesday, at 9am.

Police Traffic Investigator Norris Kwon stated in his report that last April 19, a woman contacted the Department of Public Safety and reported that her car that was parked at the Bank of Guam Building in Chalan Piao was stolen.

Kwon said a police officer responded to the scene and learned from the car owner that she had just purchased the vehicle five days ago, parked it a night before, and discovered it was stolen that day at 6:15am.

The owner said the car has a license plate ACJ-010 and was registered as a red 1998 Toyota Tercel two-door sedan.

Last Tuesday, May 17, at 7:17pm, Police Officer Jackson Davis initiated a traffic stop on a green Toyota Tercel, a two-door sedan bearing CNMI license plate ABV-913 along Iriko Drive in Chalan Piao.

Upon Davis’ reporting the violator stop to DPS Central Office, Police Officer Edward Cepeda, who heard the violator stop through radio, advised Davis to verify the license plate and registration against the Vehicle Identification  Number (VIN) found on the dash or the factory decal placed on the driver’s side body frame.

Cepeda at that time was also entertaining a theft complaint of a car with license plate ABV-913, which was stolen along with its vehicle registration in the past.

With the assistance of another police officer, Davis discovered that the factory decal bearing the VIN was tampered with and scraped off from the driver’s side body frame.

The officers also found out that the VIN plate placed on the left front windshield was covered with a black spray paint.

By removing the black spray paint off from the left front windshield, the officers were able to get the VIN that was confirmed to have matched with the reported stolen car with license plate ACJ-010.

At 7:31pm that same day, Muna, who was the driver of the car, was arrested and the vehicle was secured at DPS Central for safekeeping.

Last Wednesday, Kwon said he inspected the recovered car and noticed signs of tampering with its VIN and modification. Kwon also observed that the car was newly repainted green.

Kwon said Muna signed a written statement admitting to being in possession of the stolen car for approximately two weeks and had no intention to return it to the owner or report the matter to police.

Kwon said Muna further admitted that he repainted the car from red to green, cut the exhaust pipe to amplify the noise level, installed a CD player and speakers, changed the front grill, and put decal on the body, to avoid detection from the owner.

Last May 16, Joshua James Torres Cruz, 24, was arrested for allegedly stealing a car from a residence in San Jose, in possession of methamphetamine or “ice,” and owning a marijuana plantation.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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