'Market Duo' Bandits Get Lengthy Prison Terms

Andres Soto Jr. and Richard Valdez robbed five banks located in supermarkets throughout Orange County, including Lake Forest and Seal Beach.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

Two men who took part in a string of five robberies of bank branches located inside Orange County grocery stores -- including Lake Forest and Seal Beach -- were sentenced today to lengthy prison terms.

Andres Soto Jr., 52, of Whittier, was sentenced to 140 years to life in prison, while Richard Valdez, 54, of La Habra, was given 40 years to life.

Both men were convicted in March. Valdez was convicted of two felony counts of second-degree robbery and a felony count of second-degree commercial burglary. He has prior convictions in April 1983 for robbery and May 2003 for assault with a deadly weapon, according to prosecutors.

Soto was acquitted of two felony counts of second-degree robbery but convicted of eight other felony counts of second-degree robbery. Soto was also convicted of four felony counts of second-degree burglary.

Soto has a prior conviction for residential burglary in September 1983 and a 1993 bank robbery, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Co-defendant Paul Acosta Jr., 30, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty in February and testified against Soto and Valdez. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

Acosta was considered the mastermind of the stickups, according to prosecutors. He participated in all five bank robberies, with Soto along for four and Valdez involved in the final one, prosecutors said.

Authorities initially dubbed the bandits the Market Duo because the holdups typically involved two suspects.

Valdez and Acosta held up a Wells Fargo branch in a Stater Bros. grocery store at 1111 Imperial Highway in Placentia on Jan. 5, 2012, according to prosecutors.

Acosta and Soto robbed the same bank Nov. 21, 2011, prosecutors said.

The bandits robbed a U.S. Bank branch at 2101 W. Imperial Highway in La Habra on Oct. 25, 2011, and another U.S. Bank branch at 1101 Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach on Nov. 3, 2011, according to the FBI.

Acosta and Soto were also charged with robbing a U.S. Bank branch in Lake Forest on Dec. 10, 2011, according to prosecutors.

Acosta and Valdez took $3,152 in the final haul from the Stater Bros. branch in Placentia on Jan. 5, 2012, prosecutors said.

After the Jan. 5, 2012, stickup, a high-speed police chase ensued from Placentia, ending in Paramount with Acosta being shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, according to Placentia police.

Acosta was "cooperative" with authorities following his arrest, FBI Special Agent Chris Gicking said. He pleaded guilty to five counts of second- degree robbery and one count of evading police, all felonies, according to court records.

--City News Service

Shirley Dicktor June 27, 2014 at 03:52 PM
Can someone help me understand how robbing banks gets a longer sentence than a child molester gets?
Gary DiSarcina June 28, 2014 at 12:58 AM
Mimi Walters illegally directed state money to her husbands company but she got no jail time at all.


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