A 27-year-old alleged gang member charged with robbing a Chevron gas station in Artesia is suspected of being the culprit behind more than a dozen additional holdups dating back to October 2016, federal authorities said Wednesday.
Gerardo Sotelo of Fullerton was arrested Tuesday after allegedly robbing the Artesia station -- which he also allegedly held up on April 18, according to an affidavit filed by an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
He belongs to a Buena Park gang whose members are known to favor Brooklyn Dodgers baseball caps, according to the affidavit, which says the suspect was wearing such headgear in some of the robberies.
Top news of the day
Sotelo made his initial court appearance Wednesday on robbery charges involving the Artesia crimes. But additional counts are expected to be added, as authorities suspect him in a string of robberies of gas stations and convenience stores that began with a heist at a 7-Eleven in Brea on Oct. 4, 2016. The same store was robbed again on April 11 of this year.
He's also suspected of hitting the same 7-Eleven in La Habra on Oct. 27, 2016, and March 27 and April 5 of this year.
According to federal officials, Sotelo is also suspected of robbing:
-- a 7-Eleven in Pico Rivera on Oct. 19, 2016;
-- a 7-Eleven in Norwalk on Oct. 21, 2016;
-- a 7-Eleven in Fullerton on Oct. 26, 2016;
-- a Chevron station in Whittier on April 7;
-- a Chevron station in Brea on April 18;
-- a Chevron station in Cypress on April 20;
-- a 7-Eleven in Fullerton, also on April 20;
-- a Shell gas station in Fullerton on April 24; and
-- a Mobil gas station in Fountain Valley on April 28.
Investigators suspect the gap from the fall of 2016 until this year stems from the defendant's arrest on drug charges and parole violations on Oct. 30, 2016.
Federal prosecutors got permission from a judge to track the GPS on Sotelo's phone, so they had him under surveillance and were able to arrest him within 100 yards of the Tuesday gas station heist in Artesia, in which the weight of $25 worth of stolen pennies twice broke plastic shopping bags Sotelo was allegedly using to haul away the coins.
The clerk recognized Sotelo as the same suspect who allegedly robbed the gas station on April 18, prosecutors said.
Sotelo admitted to agents that he robbed some of the stores, but couldn't remember all of the heists because he was using heroin at the time, the affidavit alleges.
Sotelo's criminal history includes convictions for taking a car without permission, a misdemeanor, on Sept. 22, 2009; second-degree robbery on Sept. 16, 2011; misdemeanor theft on Feb. 7, 2012; and being in a gang and second-degree burglary, both misdemeanors, on Aug. 29, 2012, according to court records.
Sotelo could face up to 20 years in federal prison for each robbery charge. His next court date is May 16, according to Thom Mrozek of the U.S. Attorney's Office.