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'Market Duo' Convicted of Robbery in Lake Forest, Seal Beach Bank Holdups

Richard Valdez was convicted of two felony counts of second-degree robbery and a felony count of second-degree commercial burglary. Andres Soto Jr. was convicted of eight felony counts of second-degree robbery.

'Market Duo' Convicted of Robbery in Lake Forest, Seal Beach Bank Holdups

Two men, dubbed the “market duo” for robbing banks inside supermarkets, were convicted today of robbery and burglary in connection with several bank holdups in grocery stores in Orange County, including Lake Forest and Seal Beach.

Richard Valdez, 54, of La Habra, was convicted of two felony counts of second-degree robbery and a felony count of second-degree commercial burglary. He has prior convictions in April 1983 for robbery and May 2003 for assault with a deadly weapon, according to prosecutors.

Andres Soto Jr., 52, of Whittier, was acquitted of two felony counts of second-degree robbery but convicted of eight other felony counts of second-degree robbery. Soto was also convicted of four felony counts of second-degree burglary.

Soto has a prior conviction for residential burglary in September 1983 and a 1993 bank robbery, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Valdez and Soto are expected in court Wednesday for a hearing to determine the veracity of their prior convictions, which could affect the punishment they receive. A sentencing date is expected to be scheduled Wednesday.

Co-defendant Paul Acosta Jr., 30, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty Feb. 18 and was scheduled to be sentenced March 21.

Acosta was considered the mastermind of the stickups, according to prosecutors. He participated in all five bank robberies, with Soto allegedly along for four and Valdez allegedly involved in the final one, prosecutors said.

Authorities initially dubbed the bandits the Market Duo because the holdups typically involved two suspects.

Valdez and Acosta held up a Wells Fargo branch in a Stater Bros. grocery store at 1111 Imperial Highway in Placentia on Jan. 5, 2012, according to prosecutors.

Acosta and Soto robbed the same bank Nov. 21, 2011, prosecutors said.

The bandits robbed a U.S. Bank branch at 2101 W. Imperial Highway in La Habra on Oct. 25, 2011, and another U.S. Bank branch at 1101 Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach on Nov. 3, 2011, according to the FBI.

Acosta and Soto were also charged with robbing a U.S. Bank branch in Lake Forest on Dec. 10, 2011, according to prosecutors.

Acosta and Valdez took $3,152 in the final haul from the Stater Bros. branch in Placentia on Jan. 5, 2012, prosecutors said.

After the Jan. 5, 2012, stickup, a high-speed police chase ensued from Placentia, ending in Paramount with Acosta being shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, according to Placentia police.

Acosta was "cooperative" with authorities since his arrest, FBI Special Agent Chris Gicking said. He pleaded guilty to five counts of second- degree robbery and one count of evading police, all felonies, according to court records.

--City News Service

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