Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Wong described Justin Wayne Caldwell, 32, as a career criminal, noting he was convicted previously of possession for sale of methamphetamine and ecstasy.
Wong recommended 151 months for Caldwell, and U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Whelan imposed that on June 3. The other bandit, Carlos Adolfo Soto, 41, was sentenced by Whelan to 11 years and eight months on May 27.
Court records also show that Whelan ordered both men to pay $48,103.65 in restitution to the 11 businesses, which were robbed in the spree that targeted Metro PCS stores across the county. Both men were arrested after the Pacific Beach heist on Feb. 21, 2017.
FBI agents had followed the men to the Pacific Beach area. Caldwell was the driver of a black Mercedes sedan and Soto got out of the car and entered the Metro PCS store at 909 Grand Avenue. While Soto robbed the store, agents arrested Caldwell who was waiting in the car.
Soto saw his buddy's arrest and ran down the street and into an alley. Soto ran through several back yards and he was arrested while hiding in a backyard. Agents seized $155 in cash and nine cellular phones from a walkway on the property where Soto was hiding.
The Metro PCS employee told police the robber had his face covered, but he had a gun drawn. Soto took money from the cash register and cellphones before running out, according to court records.
"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.
The spree began Jan. 25, 2017, and ended Feb. 21, 2017. Both men could have received 20 years in prison. Robberies are normally charged in state court, but the U.S. Attorney's office filed charges alleging they interfered with interstate commerce by threats and violence.
Soto and Caldwell pleaded guilty to robbing all the cell phone stores and to holding up a Subway restaurant. The other stores held up were located in Clairemont, Normal Heights, Nestor, San Marcos, Poway and several were on El Cajon Boulevard.
The judge ordered Caldwell and Soto to pay penalty assessment fees of $1,100 and $900 respectively.