Dec. 17--MOSES LAKE -- The owner of Moses Lake Security is facing felony charges after allegedly withholding evidence related to the two armed robberies at Moses Lake convenience stores.
John Robert Abens, 55, was arrested Thursday after he allegedly refused to turn over surveillance video from the Sage and Sand Motel where the two robbery suspects, Daniel N. Gazca, 18, and Cruz Vasquez, 20, were staying prior to the second robbery Nov. 11.
According to court records, Moses Lake police requested a copy of the surveillance video from the motel owners, who were reported out of town on vacation. Police believed the video would have likely shown Vasquez wearing the clothing used at the time of the robberies.
Police were able to contact the owners who said Moses Lake Security had access to the recording and could recover the video. Police contacted Abens, who owns the security company which opened in 2010, and advised him of the seriousness of the crimes committed and they needed the video evidence "as soon as practical," according to court records.
In an interview with the Columbia Basin Herald, Abens said he was not aware the video was related to an armed robbery.
"I though it was about a stolen camera," he said. "I wasn't aware of the magnitude of the evidence. I did mess up a little bit. I should've never agreed to go down there and get the evidence for them."
Abens said he never watched the video before making a copy on Nov. 19 and questioned why police never obtained a search warrant for the motel to get access to the locked room.
He reportedly left a voicemail for one of the detectives, telling him he could come pick up the disc. The detective attempted to meet with Abens twice on Nov. 19, leaving at least two voicemails which were never returned. The detective continued to try to contact Abens on Nov. 20, 21 and 25, court records stated.
Abens was finally contacted and allegedly told officers he was on his way to Seattle and would not be back until Dec. 4. Abens said he has been dealing with serious medical issues and is awaiting heart surgery, requiring him to head to Seattle.
"I'm fighting for my life right now," he said.
When he returned to Moses Lake, Abens was again contacted by detectives. When asked if Abens would turn over the disc, he allegedly said "No, no I don't think so, I'm not going to give it to you," according to court records.
Abens allegedly hung up on officers numerous times following the Dec. 4 call. Detectives again contacted the motel owners, who said the video evidence was likely no longer on the motels recording equipment as video is automatically deleted every 17 days, according to court records.
The owners reportedly spoke with Abens one last time and told him to turn over the footage. Abens allegedly told the owners he was angry with police about a past incident and he was not going to cooperate, later saying he was "holding it hostage," court records states.
Officers attempted to find Abens at his Knolls Vista Drive home before locating him Thursday on South Division Street and arresting him.
Abens said Sunday the copy of the disc broke in his trunk, the only remaining copy of the potential evidence.
"There may not have been any evidence at all," Abens said, never have watched the footage.
He has been charged with rendering criminal assistance to armed robbery, a Class A felony. If convicted, he could face a maximum of 10 years in prison.
"I had a fairly good reputation in town, I just made a mistake," Abens said. "I'm not a bad guy. I'm not a thief, I'm not an armed robber. I'm not trying to help this guy. That's my whole life, is trying to fight crime."
Copyright 2013 - Columbia Basin Herald, Moses Lake, Wash.