A federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment Thursday against two small-town crooks whose gas station and convenience store robberies were so brazen they are being charged with federal crimes, the Department of Justice said Friday.
Javier Beltran, 34, of Strathmore, and Ulises Medina, 24, of Earlimart, are charged with conspiracy to commit Hobbs robbery, interference with commerce by robbery, and brandishing a firearm during a violence crime, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said.
Each faces at least 20 years in the federal penitentiary and probably more.
Beltran and Medina and others robbed 11 gas stations, convenience stores, and liquor stores from May 19, 2016, until July 22, 2017, authorities say. They used a similar method each time.
First, they would steal a Chevrolet or GMC sports utility vehicle or truck manufactured between 2000 and 2006. They would push a hole in the lock on the door of the vehicle, open the steering shaft, and start the vehicle without a key.
Next, they would drive to a gas station, convenience store, or liquor store where they would park the vehicle outside, and Beltran, Medina, and other conspirators, wearing masks and gloves, would enter the store carrying guns.
They would order the store clerk to give them money, then would steal money from the cash register or safe in the store. Finally, they would flee in the stolen vehicle, drive it a short distance, and switch to another getaway vehicle, often leaving the stolen vehicle running.
The indictment said Beltran, Medina, and conspirators committed at least seven armed robberies in Tulare and Kern counties between May 2016 and January 2017. The next month, Beltran, Medina, and other conspirators traveled to Nebraska, and did some there. Beltran, Medina and their conspirators then returned to California, where they committed more armed robberies.
The business robbed were:
▪ May 19, 2016, Applegate’s Market, Porterville
▪ June 29, 2016, Applegate’s Market, Porterville
▪ Oct. 2, 2016, EZ Shop-N-Go, Strathmore
▪ Nov. 4, 2016, EZ Shop-N-Go, Strathmore
▪ Dec. 20, 2016, SA Market, Earlimart
▪ Dec. 30, 2016, Payless Liquor, Bakersfield
▪ Jan. 18, 2017, Joe’s Westside, Porterville
▪ Feb. 22, 2017, Robbery of Tienda Mexicana Guerrero, Fremont, Nebraska
▪ March 13, 2017, Amigo’s Market, Earlimart
▪ May 12, 2017, Sunshine Market, Earlimart
▪ July 22, 2017, Woodville Liquor, Porterville
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Porterville Police Department, Lindsay Police Department, Bakersfield Police Department, Fremont (Nebraska) Police Department, and Dodge County (Nebraska) Sheriff’s Office.
If convicted of Hobbs Act robbery, the defendants face a mandatory penalty of 20 years in prison, a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Also, they face additional prison time other charges if found guilty.
Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold