Crime

Four held in series of robberies in Fresno, Clovis

Thanks to "good old-fashioned cop shoe leather," four people are in custody in connection with a series of robberies in Fresno and Clovis, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said Friday.

In a joint press conference, Mims and Capt. Drew Bessinger, acting Clovis police chief, applauded the efforts of their investigators, specifically sheriff's detective David Barile and Clovis detective Kory Westbury.

Three of the suspects were identified as Cornelio Valencia, 23, Luis Mendez, 19, and Julio Cesar Ramos, 18, all of Fresno. They have been charged with three counts each of robbery, and one count each of burglary. They are being held in the Fresno County Jail.

A fourth suspect, a 17-year-old girl who is accused of using credit cards stolen in one of the robberies to buy food and gasoline, has been charged with burglary, forgery, unlawful use of credit cards and possession of stolen property.

The three men are believed responsible for the robbery of a woman waiting in a drive-through line at a McDonald's restaurant on Kings Canyon Road in southeast Fresno on Aug. 8, and the robbery of another woman about five minutes later on the 4800 block of East Amherst Avenue.

In both cases, investigators said, the victims were robbed of their purses and other property after they were threatened with a gun.

Shortly after the Aug. 8 robberies, investigators said, credit cards taken from one of the victims were used at a Clovis store.

Bessinger said the three men are also believed responsible for the robbery of a woman on Aug. 14 at a church function on the 200 block of Bullard Avenue in Clovis.

In that incident, the victim was with a group of people inside the Central Baptist Church when she was accosted in a hallway by a man who threatened her with a gun and took her purse. The purse contained credit cards, identification, a digital camera, a cell phone and other property.

After a two-month investigation that included interviewing witnesses, checking surveillance tapes and other leads, arrest warrants and search warrants were obtained for the three men, investigators said.

Valencia, an Army reservist and former Army ranger with an honorable discharge, was arrested Oct. 13 at the Presidio military base in Monterey.

Mendez, Ramos and the 17-year-old girl were arrested Tuesday at their respective homes.

Mims said two replica semiautomatic handguns believed to have been used in the robberies have been recovered.

Investigators said the three men are believed to have been involved in similar robberies in the Fresno and Clovis areas.

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