OCEANSIDE — An armed robbery for several chicken sandwiches could place two young men behind bars for several years.
The alleged holdup only lasted five minutes, but Moses Talr Simeta and Rafael Fructoso Gonzalez could face up to five years in prison.
Prosecutors allege the duo robbed the ampm on Douglas Drive in Oceanside around 4 a.m. Aug. 30.
At a preliminary hearing Oct. 8, Oceanside police detective Douglas Baxter testified the night clerk told police he went to confront Simeta after he noticed the 21-year-old stealing hot food items, and that is when Gonzalez, 20, who was standing near the counter, raised his shirt to show a handgun and said, “Let him take what he wants.”
The victim told authorities that as he followed the duo out to their car, Simeta pulled out a gun as they backed out of the parking lot, waved the weapon in the air and said, “Man, just go back in the store,” Baxter testified.
Simeta and Gonzalez both admitted to stealing the sandwiches, but denied using any weapons.
Their attorneys argued to have their charges changed to petty theft counts citing surveillance video taken from the ampm, which they said collaborates their clients’ admissions.
Though no weapons could be seen in the video, Superior Court Judge Joan Weber said she found enough evidence to order the defendants to stand trial based on the victim’s statements and evidence, which included several replica handguns, one of which may have been a small lighter, in the defendant’s possessions when their residences were searched in September.
Simeta and Gonzalez are charged with one felony count each of robbery. No weapons or gang allegations have been filed against the defendants. Deputy District Attorney Geoff Allard said the defendants are associated with Oceanside criminal street gangs.
Weber denied a request by the defendants’ attorneys to have their clients released on their own recognizance due to their lack of criminal records and strong family ties to the community, but in doing so she did reduce their bail to $25,000.
Outside the courtroom, Simeta’s mother, Ethel Simeta, said while it wasn’t right that her son stole the food, she believes her son and Gonzalez are being wrongly accused of the robbery in part because of discrepancies in police statements. Further, she denied her son’s involvement with any criminal street gang.
Simeta and Gonzalez’s next scheduled court appearance is an Oct. 22 arraignment hearing, at which time a trial date may be set.