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Man pleads guilty in robberies

He led attacks on Hispanic-owned firms, police say

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The man whom police arrested in June in connection with a string of robberies at Salt Lake City Hispanic businesses has struck a plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Amador Carrera Ramirez, alias Antonio Garcia Banderos or Tarta, pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of interfering with interstate commerce and two counts of using a firearm while committing a felony, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Salt Lake Police believe Ramirez, 24, may have been the ring leader in the robberies, which lasted for more than 18 months and have led to at least four arrests. Another defendant in the case, Adrian Lara, 20, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.

Prosecutors alleged that by committing robberies at several Hispanic-owned businesses, Ramirez obstructed the effects of commerce or the movement of goods in interstate commerce, therefore violating the Hobbs Act, which deals with interstate commerce, according to the press release.

By pleading guilty to the two Hobbs Act violations and the two firearms charges, prosecutors have agreed to dismiss the four remaining counts in the indictment.

Ramirez pleaded guilty to a March 11 robbery of Montero Imports, in which he took $300. The other robbery to which the defendant pleaded guilty is a June 16 robbery at Queztal Imports. Both robberies carry a Hobbs Act violation charge and a firearms charge.

Salt Lake police led a five-hour search for Ramirez and two others after three men escaped on foot when their car was pulled over by an officer just minutes after the June 16 Queztal Imports robbery. Ramirez was arrested the following day.

At sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 14, Ramirez faces at least 25 years in prison, according to prosecutors.

"Because these were violent robberies . . . and because they targeted Hispanic businesses, . . . the Salt Lake Police Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office were determined to put a stop to the robberies and bring those committing the crimes to justice," U.S. attorney Paul Warner said.

Along with Lara and Ramirez, prosecutors are continuing a case against a minor who was also arrested in connection with the robberies.

E-MAIL: ehayes@desnews.com