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'Market Duo Bandit' Gets Six Years in Prison

Paul Acosta Jr., who pleaded guilty Feb. 18, cooperated with authorities and testified against two co-defendants in their trials earlier this month. They were accused of robbing banks in Lake Forest and Seal Beach.

Security footage of one of the "market duo bandits."
Security footage of one of the "market duo bandits."

A 30-year-old Los Angeles man, who admitted to five bank robberies -- including Seal Beach and Lake Forest -- as one of the "Market Duo Bandits," was sentenced today to six years in prison.

Paul Acosta Jr., who pleaded guilty Feb. 18, cooperated with authorities and testified against two co-defendants in their trials earlier this month.

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.

Sentencing is set for May 9 for the other two defendants: Richard Valdez, 54, of La Habra, and Andres Soto Jr., 52, of Whittier. Valdez faces up to 44 years to life in prison and Soto faces up to 110 years to life in prison.

Valdez was convicted March 11 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.

Soto 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.

Prosecutors said Acosta participated in all five bank robberies, with Soto along for four and Valdez involved in the final one. Authorities initially dubbed the bandits the Market Duo because the holdups typically involved two suspects in grocery store bank branches.

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.

--City News Service


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