U.S District Court Judge Thomas Whelan ordered Carlos Adolfo Soto, 41, to pay restitution back to all the stores, but the amount will be decided after his buddy, Justin Wayne Caldwell, 32, is sentenced on June 3. The losses exceed $20,000.
"These robberies were terrifying experiences for the victims, one of whom was threatened with a machete," said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer in a press release.
Soto apologized to the clerk whom he threatened with a machete in an earlier hearing on May 6. That clerk told Whelan that "no one should live in fear as I do every day."
"I still have nightmares," said the woman, who was identified as L.N.R. in the indictment stemming from the Jan. 25, 2017 robbery at the Metro PCS store in Spring Valley.
Soto and Caldwell pleaded guilty to robbing another Metro PCS store at 909 Grand Avenue at 2 p.m. on Feb. 21, 2017, which was the last hold-up in the series that targeted Metro PCS stores.
Soto was dubbed "the pinky bandit" for a distinctive pinky finger which protruded out from the weapons he held which included a taser and pellet gun.
"Prosecuting violent crime is a top priority for this office," said Brewer. "This case is an example of great detective work by the FBI and local law enforcement partners as well as diligence by prosecutor Stephen Wong."
Wong recommended a 151-month term for both Soto and Caldwell. The spree began Jan. 25, 2017, and ended Feb. 21, 2017.
Soto's attorney, Jamal Muhammad, recommended a 5-year sentence.
Soto has a prior conviction for aggravated assault in 2002.
"This significant sentence is the result of our continued efforts to keep the community safe from violence, fear, and intimidation by working together with our local law enforcement partners on our Violent Crimes Task Force," said Scott Brunner, FBI agent in charge.
Robberies are normally charged in state court, but the U.S. Attorney's office filed federal charges that alleged they interfered with interstate commerce by threats and violence.
Soto could have received 20 years in prison. Both he and Caldwell pleaded guilty to robbing all the cell phone stores and to holding up a Subway restaurant.
Prosecutors said Soto would enter a store with a weapon and would point it at store clerks. Soto would demand cellular phones and cash. Caldwell often waited outside the store, serving as the getaway driver in a Mercedes.
Both were arrested in Pacific Beach after Soto robbed the Metro PCS store while Caldwell waited outside. Police had followed them from the College area.
The other stores robbed were located in Clairemont, Normal Heights, San Marcos, Nestor, Poway, and several on El Cajon Boulevard.