Two men are heading to prison for their role in an attempted cannabis robbery that left another man dead.
Jose Antonio Alvarez and Omar Rojo, both aged 25, “entered no contest pleas to voluntary manslaughter and were formally sentenced in late October,” according to Bay Area News Group.
Both Alvarez and Rojo received an identical prison sentence of 16 years.
The two “were originally charged with murder and robbery in the death of 25-year-old Jaime Valdovinos,” the publication said.
Valdovinos and another individual were targeted by Rojo and Alvarez for a robbery of “a large amount of marijuana” back in late September of 2019, according to Bay Area News Group.
NBC Bay Area reported at the time that Oakland police said that the “man who was with Valdovinos told police that Rojo and another suspect robbed Valdovinos and him of a large amount of marijuana,” and that the “surviving victim said that during a struggle to get the marijuana back, the two suspects shot and killed Valdovinos.”
Rojo, who was 20 at the time, “was charged with special circumstances murder” days after the shooting, according to the NBC affiliate.
“Witnesses and video surveillance camera footage indicate that Rojo was in the rear seat of a vehicle in which Valdovinos and the other man were sitting, Oakland police Officer Michael Jaeger wrote in a probable cause statement,” the outlet reported at the time.
Alvarez, however, was not arrested until April of 2021.
Bay Area News Group has more background on the sentence of the two men.
“Police reports allege both Rojo and Alvarez fired guns during the course of the setup. The shooting happened when the victims were attempting to get the marijuana back, according to Oakland police,” the outlet reported this week.
“Investigators said in a court statement that Alvarez was identified as a suspect through ‘surveillance video and witnesses.’ The plea deal includes a court order for both defendants to stay away from the surviving victim and to not possess guns after their release from prison. Both men were originally charged with crimes that made them eligible for life without the possibility of parole.”
The disturbing case highlights the dangers that still exist within the illicit drug trade –– operations that Bay Area law enforcement continue to rein in.
Earlier this fall, law enforcement officials raided a warehouse in Oakland filled with millions of dollars worth of cannabis plants, a bust that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said was one of the biggest the Golden State has seen this year.
“We have a history of combating illegal outdoor cannabis grows, which has evolved to a broader range of operations including warehouse grows, in support of establishing a thriving legal marketplace,” Janice Mackey, a spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told High Times in an email. “CDFW’s cannabis enforcement program is always gathering intelligence, receiving information and conducting an array of investigations with our state and county partners on various aspects of the illegal cannabis supply chain.”
Local news station KGO reported that the “authorities eradicated 41,082 illegal cannabis plants and destroyed 1,841 pounds of processed cannabis” with an “estimated retail value [of] $36,930,300” in the raid.
The station also said that three firearms were recovered in the operation.
Last year, an armed robbery at an Oakland dispensary resulted in the theft of $100,000 worth of products.
Alan Sorrentino, the owner of C.R.A.F.T. (Citizens Research Alliance for Therapeutics) Cannabis, the dispensary that was robbed, explained what transpired to local news station KTVU. Just before 3 a.m., Sorrentino said the robbers “cut the power to the whole building.”
“The theft happened early Saturday morning and the owner says one of the thieves brandished a gun at him when he showed up at the store…Sorrentino says the intruders seemed to have an orchestrated plan that ultimately helped them get over $100,000 in stolen product. ‘Unfortunately they were able to get away with all of our inventory basically, so we’ve had to shut down,’ Sorrentino said. Sorrentino says his alarm company notified him of the burglary early Saturday morning and they both called Oakland police multiple times. He says he went over to the building and one of the suspects approached him with a gun, so he quickly left the area. He says he could see them on the surveillance video the whole time. ‘I sat and watched them pretty much loot the whole building for at least three hours,’ Sorrentino said. The robbers left a trail of destruction behind them: Busted walls where a secured safe was removed, broken door locks, and broken stair steps. Oakland police say there were at least three vehicles involved in the burglary.”