Two Tulare County men indicted for serial robberies
Federal grand jury indicts Strathmore man, Earlimart man for series of armed robberies in Tulare and Kern Counties and in Nebraska
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
FRESNO – A Strathmore man and an Earlimart man were indicted by a federal grand jury last week for orchestrating a series of armed robberies that stretched from Strathmore to Nebraska.
On July 12, the grand jury returned a five-count indictment against Javier Beltran, 34, of Strathmore, and Ulises Medina, 24, of Earlimart, charging them with conspiracy to commit robbery, interference with commerce by robbery, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. According to court documents, Beltran and Medina were members of a seven-man gang that committed a series of armed robberies of gas stations, convenience stores, and liquor stores from May 19, 2016 to July 22, 2017 in Tulare and Kern Counties as well as Dodge County in Nebraska. At one time, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department had linked the bandits to 16 robberies, including 12 in Tulare County, two in Kern County and two in Nebraska.
The gang used a similar modus operandi for each robbery. First, they would steal a car, typically a Chevrolet or GMC sports utility vehicle or truck manufactured between 2000 and 2006, by hotwiring the car. The robbers would then drive to a convenience store, park outside, and then enter the store wearing masks and gloves and armed with handguns and assault rifles. In English and Spanish, they demanded money and shouted, “Get on the ground.” With victims on the ground, they helped themselves to the cash register or order the clerk to open the store’s safe. In some instances, personal property such as cell phones and wallets were stolen. Then they fled in a stolen getaway vehicle which law enforcement found abandoned nearby. After fleeing from the store, they would drive the stolen vehicle a short distance and switch to another getaway vehicle, often leaving the stolen vehicle running.
U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said the indictment included at least seven armed robberies in Tulare and Kern Counties between May 2016 and January 2017. These included Applegate’s Market in Porterville on May 19, 2016 and again on June 29, 2016; EZ Shop-N-Go in Strathmore on Oct. 2, 2016 and again on Nov. 4, 2016; SA Market in Earlimart on Dec. 20, 2016; Payless Liquor in Bakersfield on Dec. 30, 2016; and Joe’s Westside in Porterville on Jan. 18, 2017.
The next month, Beltran, Medina, and as many as five other men travelled to Nebraska, where they robbed Tienda Mexicana Guerrero in Fremont, Neb. on Feb. 22, 2017 and possibly two other locations. After returning to California, the gang committed at least three more robberies at Amigo’s Market in Earlimart on March 13, 2017; Sunshine Market in Earlimart on May 12, 2017; Woodville Liquor in Porterville on July 22, 2017. Members of the this group were also connected to robberies that happened at stores in Lindsay and Delano.
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. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ross Pearson and Kathleen Servatius are prosecuting the case.
If convicted of the conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery, the defendants face a mandatory statutory penalty of 20 years in prison, a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Beltran was charged with two counts and Medina was charged with one count of interference with commerce by robbery, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. Beltran was charged with two counts and Medina was charged with one count of brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, which carries a mandatory statutory penalty of at least seven consecutive years up to a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison, and a $250,000 fine if convicted. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.