A 24-year-old man has been sentenced to 32 years eight months in prison for being the gunman in a series of armed robberies in Modesto last year.
A jury in December found Raul Alberto Valencia guilty of three counts of robbery. Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff sentenced Valencia on Friday.
Valencia used a gun to hold up three stores in Modesto in about three hours, according to Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne. Two other men were arrested and charged as co-conspirators in the armed robberies.
Patricio Sandoval pleaded no contest to three counts of robbery and one count of transporting drugs for sale. The third defendant in the robbery case, Antonio Valencia, was acquitted of all charges.
The armed robberies occurred on the evening of Jan. 14, 2013.
The first robbery occurred about 5:15 p.m., when two men held up Millennium Food and Liquor in the 500 block of Sycamore Avenue in central Modesto.
The second was reported about 5:30 p.m., when two men held up Golden West Market in the 2600 block of Paradise Road in west Modesto.
About 8:30 p.m., two men held up Viva Market in the 1300 block of Paradise Road, also in west Modesto.
From the beginning, investigators believed the same people had robbed the three stores. One man watched the door while the other demanded money from store employees. Authorities said the robbers escaped from each incident with an undisclosed amount of cash.
About 45 minutes after the third robbery, Modesto police gang investigators spotted a black Volvo near Carpenter and Hatch roads. Witnesses to the Viva Market holdup described a similar car used in that robbery.
Police stopped the car and arrested the three defendants. Inside the car, officers found property taken in some of the robberies along with a handgun believed to have been used in the crimes, police said at the time.