Two men accused of robbing Latino grocery stores in Upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina pleaded guilty to federal robbery and firearms charges in Columbia’s federal court today, officials say.
Juan Manuel Hernandez, 39, and Arturo Mendez-Gomez, 27, both citizens of Mexico, pleaded guilty to conspiring to interfere with interstate commerce by robbery and two counts of brandishing, carrying, using, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said in a statement released Monday.
According to evidence presented at the hearing, the two began robbing stores in the Carolinas in December of 2013 and continued robbing stores until February of 2014 when members of law enforcement spotted a getaway car the two men had used in some of the robberies.
Typically, the men would hold up a store’s clerk at gun point, demand money, then tie up the clerk before making their getaway, Nettles said.
Mendez-Gomez was arrested in February of 2014. Hernandez fled, but was later apprehended in Columbus, Ohio.
The men face a minimum of 32 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment, Nettles said.