Two San Diego men plead guilty to robbery spree involving 10 Metro PCS stores and a Subway restaurant
For Further Information, Contact:
Assistant U. S. Attorneys Stephen H. Wong (619) 546-9464 and
Lara A. Stingley (619) 546-8403
Carlos Adolfo Soto and Justin Wayne Caldwell pleaded guilty today in federal court to robbing 10 Metro PCS stores and a Subway restaurant in January and February of 2017. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Soto was dubbed the “pinky bandit” for his distinctive pinky finger, which protruded out from the weapons he held during a string of eleven robberies beginning on January 25, 2017 and ending on February 21, 2017. As described in the plea agreements, the robberies targeted Metro PCS stores in and around San Diego County. In a typical robbery, Soto would enter the store holding a weapon such as a machete, tazer, or pellet gun that resembled a firearm. Soto would point his weapon at store clerks and demand cellular phones and cash. Caldwell typically waited outside the store in his vehicle, serving as the getaway driver who helped Soto escape the crime scene. On at least one occasion, Caldwell also entered the store with a weapon. For example, on February 14, 2017, the robbers pointed an object that resembled a handgun at a store clerk and forced the clerk into a storage area in the back of the store, kneeling down on his hands and feet, while they loaded a backpack with cellular phones. The robbers then ordered the clerk to open the cash register.
Public filings describe how Special Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and robbery detectives with the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department collaborated to solve this case. In late January and early February of 2017, investigators noticed a series of robberies around San Diego County that fit a pattern. Ten of the eleven robberies involved Metro PCS cell phone stores and in each the robbers used similar methods, weapons, and disguises. Investigators identified the robbers after one of them registered a cell phone taken during an earlier robbery. Surveillance ultimately led investigators to the scene of the final robbery in the series. Soto was arrested after a foot chase, during which he dropped merchandise taken during the final robbery. Officers arrested Caldwell in his car, parked at the scene.
“After striking fear in the hearts of San Diego-area store clerks, these serial robbers were apprehended and charged due to the persistent efforts of dedicated local and federal law enforcement officers,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “Thanks to these efforts our community can rest easier, knowing that the culprits have been brought to justice.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge John Brown stated, “The FBI is committed to working side-by-side with our local partners in these criminal series cases that involve violence, fear, and intimidation in our community. With today’s convictions, this violent spree of robberies has come to an end.”
Soto and Caldwell have been in custody since February 21, 2017, and are set for sentencing on January 22, 2019 before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan.
Case Number 17-CR-558-W
Carlos Adolfo Soto
Justin Wayne Caldwell
Summary of Charges
Hobbs Act Robbery, 18 U.S.C. § 1951
Maximum penalty: 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, 3 years’ supervised release
Federal Bureau of Investigation
San Diego Police Department
San Diego Sherriff’s Department