Crime

Trial a go for alleged 'Band-Aid Bandit'

Andrew Gonzalez
Andrew Gonzalez

After a foot chase through his Merced neighborhood, Andrew Jason Gonzalez congratulated the officers who put him in handcuffs.

Gonzalez, 24, told them they finally had caught the "Band-Aid Bandit," Deputy District Attorney John Baker said Monday, recounting testimony from a preliminary hearing Friday.

A judge ruled Gonzalez will stand trial for a robbery spree that stretched from Modesto to Turlock over four months.

Gonzalez faces a maximum sentence of about 40 years if convicted of eight felony counts, including eight enhancements for use of a firearm in the robberies, Baker said.

He is scheduled to be arraigned on April 24.

On Friday, Baker spent four hours calling police to the stand, showing photos from surveillance videos and asking authorities about fingerprint evidence before Judge Timothy Salter ruled there was sufficient evidence for a trial.

Baker said Gonzalez's mother, Allison Villegas, identified her son in a still photo taken from surveillance video of one of the robberies.

A jailhouse conversation between Gonzalez and Villegas led investigators to a weapon hidden in a computer tower in Gonzalez's car, Baker said.

The defendant used the code words "cookie enhancement" to speak of the gun enhancement that would be added to the charges against him if the weapon was found, Baker said.

Gonzalez's legal problems don't stop at the Stanislaus County line. He is a suspect in nearly 30 robberies in the Central Valley and Bay Area, including Sunnyvale, San Jose, Livermore and Santa Clara.

Police said he wore a Band-Aid under his left eye to cover a mole on his face during the robberies.

He was arrested Oct. 30 in the Merced neighborhood where he shared a house with his parents.

Gonzalez's defense attorney, Matthew Yeoman, said Monday he had no comment about the case.

During the first "Band-Aid" robbery, on June 4, the perpetrator escaped with $57 from a Turlock Quik Stop, according to testimony from a Turlock police officer.

At a Turlock Circuit City in August, police said, Gonzalez grabbed a Verizon Wireless flier from an employee at the front entrance, leaving his prints behind when he discarded the paper at the counter, Baker said.

Gonzalez's method was to ask for change so a clerk would open the cash drawer, police said. He also showed his gun to the victims, authorities said.

"Don't move. I'm not joking," a witness reported Gonzalez saying as a Circuit City worker emptied $510 from the cash drawer.

Villegas left Friday's proceedings because of her status as a potential witness. Villegas dabbed her face with a balled-up tissue, emotional even hours before the start of the hearing.

"We just love our son greatly. We stand by him and support him through this process," Villegas said Monday. She said she was advised by her son's attorney not to speak further about the case.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.

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