Robbing Fruit Vendors
RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Two men accused in a series of robberies targeting fruit vendors in Riverside and neighboring communities pleaded not guilty Tuesday to multiple counts of armed robbery and other offenses.
Edgar Martinez Menchaca, 31, and Arturo Romero, 27, both of Perris, were arrested last week following a joint investigation by the Riverside Police Department and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Both defendants are charged with 11 counts each of armed robbery and assault with a firearm.
Menchaca and Romero were arraigned jointly before Superior Court Judge Gary Polk, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Feb. 2 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
Both are being held in lieu of $1 million bail — Menchaca at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, and Romero at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.
According to Riverside police, the robbery series began during the second week of November, when the pair allegedly held up a fruit stand in the 2100 block of Myers Street.
They allegedly targeted another vendor in the 2100 block of Van Buren Boulevard four separate times — Nov. 18, Nov. 23, Dec. 18 and Jan. 11 — Officer Ryan Railsback said.
Court papers indicate vendors were also held up around Lake Mathews and near Perris. The victims were identified in documents as “Joel G,” “Garcia Fruit” and “La Michoacana.”
No injuries were reported in connection with the robbery series.
Railsback said that as detectives were investigating the hold-ups, they learned similar ones had occurred in the sheriff’s jurisdiction, and that the same two men were believed to be responsible for all the robberies.
The ensuing joint police-sheriff’s investigation culminated in search warrants being executed Jan. 18 at properties on McAllister Street, just north of Lake Mathews, and Penasco Grande Street in Perris.
“As a result, evidence was located linking both suspects to the robberies, and Menchaca and Romero were arrested,” Railsback said.
Court records show that Menchaca has prior convictions for vandalism, driving under the influence of drugs and violating a domestic violence restraining order. Romero has priors for drunk driving, being an unlicensed operator of a motor vehicle and driving on a revoked license.
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