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Restauranteur steals reporter’s cellphones during interview

December 19, 2019

An Arizona Republic reporter had two cellphones stolen by a restaurant operator during an interview on Dec. 5, 2019.

Food and dining reporter Priscilla Totiyapungprasert had arranged to interview Tawny Costa, the operator of a new Italian restaurant in Phoenix. Costa had agreed to the interview being recorded, the Republic reported.

Totiyapungprasert’s personal and work phones were placed on the table during the interview, which ended abruptly when the reporter asked questions about Costa’s past businesses and her connection to Frank Capri, the father of Costa's two children. Capri, also a restauranteur, had multiple locations fail to open or abruptly close amid allegations of fraud and theft, according to the Republic.

In a statement to the police, Totiyapungprasert said Costa abruptly grabbed her phones, elbowing and pushing her when she attempted to grab them back, the Republic reported. Totiyapungprasert also told police that her knee was injured as she reached for her phones.

Costa left the restaurant with the phones and, as of publication, they have not been recovered. The incident remains under investigation by Phoenix police, the Republic reported.

“We’re thankful for Phoenix police’s response and their concern for Priscilla,” Republic Executive Editor Greg Burton said in the newspaper's report of the incident. “A free press is a courageous press, and her actions are an inspiration.”

Totiyapungprasert declined to comment to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

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