WATERLOO — A string of store robberies with a knife and pepper spray will send a Cedar Falls man to prison for up to 50 years.
Because of mandatory minimums, Carlos Roig Gonzalez, 34, will have to serve at least 35 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.
Prosecutors had asked 60 years, noting Roig, armed with a knife, didn’t have to deploy the pepper spray or hold knives to employees’ throats, but he did when he robbed Kay Jewelers and Dollar Tree in Cedar Falls and Sally Beauty Supply in Waterloo.
“The defendant terrorized these individuals. He terrorized this community. … These were not spur of the moment. These were very planned, very calculated offenses,” said Assistant County Attorney Elizabeth O’Donnell, who prosecuted the case in two trials that resulted in convictions for two counts of first-degree robbery and one count of second-degree robbery.
She noted Roig also had convictions for misdemeanor theft and prescription drugs in Iowa and arrests for attempted robbery, robbery and several murders in Puerto Rico in 2010 and 2014. She said the outcome of the Puerto Rico arrests wasn’t known.
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Defense attorney Brian Johnson, who pushed for a 25-year sentence, said it was safe to assume his client wasn’t convicted of murder because he was freed.
Judge Brad Harris said he didn’t consider the murder arrests or other charges without confirmed convictions when handing down the sentence.
Before sentencing, Roig sought to dismiss his robbery convictions on speedy trial grounds.
Authorities said Roig was behind the holdups at Sally Beauty Supply in Waterloo and Dollar Tree in Cedar Falls on Dec. 26, 2017, and the heist at Kay Jewelers that netted an estimated $400,000 in merchandise Jan. 22, 2018.
He was arrested after the jewelry store robbery when a clerk recognized his voice and stature as the man who had asked her to put a ring on layaway days earlier. Police found a ring similar to one stolen from the store at Roig’s house, but the rest of the loot remains missing.