For Immediate Release
O.C. Man Charged in Armed Robbery Spree that Targeted Gas Stations and 7-Eleven Stores across L.A. and Orange Counties
SANTA ANA, California – An alleged member of a Buena Park street gang has been arrested and charged in relation to a series of armed robberies of gas stations and 7-Eleven convenience stores over the past 18 months.
Gerardo Sotelo, 27, of Fullerton, was arrested Tuesday after he allegedly robbed a Chevron gas station in Artesia.
Sotello was taken into custody immediately after the noontime robbery by law enforcement officers that included agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and officers with the Brea Police Department.
“At the time of his arrest, Sotelo possessed a black replica firearm in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt,” according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint. “Sotelo also possessed $25 in rolls of pennies, $17 in cash in an inside pocket, other loose currency, and a plastic bag.”
When authorities interviewed the employee who was robbed at gunpoint, the victim said he recognized Sotelo as having robbed him previously at gunpoint on April 18, according to the affidavit.
Sotelo was named in a federal criminal complaint filed this morning that charged him with one count of interference with commerce by robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act. While the complaint specifically charges Sotelo in relation to Tuesday robbery, the affidavit links him to a string of 16 robberies going back to October 2016 that took place across Orange and Los Angeles counties. Ten of those robberies took place over the past month.
In many of the robberies, the suspect selected an item from the store and approached the counter as if he intends to purchase it, according to the affidavit. When the clerk was near the cash register, the suspect pulled what appeared to be a black semiautomatic handgun and demanded cash from the register. During most of the robberies, the suspect carried a plastic shopping bag and wore a baseball hat with logos for the Brooklyn Dodgers or the Los Angeles Dodgers. When authorities searched Sotelo’s residence on Tuesday, they found four Brooklyn Dodgers hats, two Los Angeles Dodgers hats and two gray plastic bags similar to those used during the robbery spree.
Sotelo is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.
The Hobbs Act robbery charge alleged in the complaint carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
The investigation that resulted in Sotelo’s arrest is being led by the ATF and the Brea Police Department, which are receiving substantial assistance from the Fullerton Police Department.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott D. Tenley of the Santa Ana Branch Office.
Similar armed robberies that occurred using the same modus operandi from 2016 to the present include:
- Oct. 4, 2016 armed robbery of 7-Eleven in Brea
- Oct. 19, 2016 armed robbery of 7-Eleven in Pico Rivera
- Oct. 21, 2016 armed robbery of 7-Eleven in Norwalk
- Oct. 26, 2016 armed robbery of 7-Eleven in Fullerton
- Oct. 27, 2016 armed robbery of 7-Eleven in La Habra
- March 27, 2018 armed robbery of 7-Eleven in La Habra (the same victim as the Oct. 27, 2016 robbery)
- April 5, 2018 armed robbery of 7-Eleven in La Habra (the same victim as the Oct. 27, 2016 and March 27, 2018 robberies)
- April 7, 2018 armed robbery of Chevron gas station/convenience store in Whittier
- April 11, 2018 armed robbery of 7-Eleven in Brea (the same victim as the Oct. 4, 2018 robbery)
- April 18, 2018 armed robbery of Chevron gas station/convenience store in Brea
- April 18, 2018 armed robbery of Chevron gas station/convenience store in Artesia
- April 20, 2018 armed robbery of Chevron gas station/convenience store in Cypress, California
- April 20, 218 armed robbery of 7-Eleven in Fullerton (less than two hours after the robbery in Cypress)
- April 24, 2018 armed robbery of Shell gas station/convenience store in Fullerton (less than one mile from the April 20, 2018, 7-Eleven armed robbery in Fullerton)
- April 28, 2018 armed robbery of Mobil gas station/convenience store in Fountain Valley
- May 1, 2018 robbery of Chevron gas station/convenience store in Artesia.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.