Five of the seven La Plaza Mall robbery defendants have been sentenced to state prison.
On Thursday morning, state District Judge Israel Ramon Jr. sentenced 33-year-old Alberto Rafael Barrera to nine years in prison, court records show.
The group of men caused panic in Hidalgo County in July of 2018 when they rushed into the Deutsch & Deutsch jewelry store and smashed glass cases with “mini sledge hammers” as they tried to make off with designer watches worth millions.
At the time, the sound of glass smashing was mistaken as gunshots and reports of armed gunmen in the mall spread throughout the community.
A widely circulated video of the robbery showed 29-year-old Jorge Angel Mejia holding what looked like a handgun. The weapon turned out to be a BB gun.
Ramon sentenced Mejia to 15 years in prison.
Also sentenced in the case are Javier Leobardo Olvera, who received 12 years, 27-year-old Miguel Quintanilla Cardenas, who received 14 years, and 24-year-old Brayan Oliver Melchor, who received 25 years in prison — the stiffest sentence handed down yet.
Part of the reason for that sentence was because Melchor participated in a nearly identical robbery in California in 2015 for which he served time.
Another defendant in the case, 25-year-old Abner Zepeda Posos, also took part in the 2015 California robbery and served time in prison.
He has also entered guilty pleas for his role in the La Plaza Mall robbery and is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 23.
Raul Alberto Rangel, 44, is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 19.