A man arrested in connection with the armed robbery of a Pacific Grove grocery shopper Friday is a former Nuestra Familia gang member who has been a target of slaying attempts by the gang since 1997.
At 7 p.m. Friday, a 37-year-old woman was loading groceries into her car in the parking lot of the Safeway store on Forest Avenue in Pacific Grove. The woman felt someone tugging at her purse from behind, officers said, and she turned to face a man in a black ski mask pointing a revolver at her.
The man took the woman’s purse and jumped into a car driven by a woman, police said. The car sped off on the Holman Highway before officers arrived. But a witness described the car and a partial license number to police, said Cmdr. Darius Engles.
Pablo Castaneda, 39, of Salinas, and Darlene Marie Garibal, 23, of Gonzales, were arrested in connection with the armed robbery of a 37-year-old Pacific Grove woman in the parking lot of a Safeway store on Friday night.
Police simultaneously arrested Frank Anthony Olvera Jr., 41, of Salinas, and Tom Ralph Mejia, 20, a transient, on suspicion of associating with people on parole and with other gang members.
The arrests came after police, going on a partial license plate number, traced the suspects to a home in the 600 block of Hawthorne Street in Monterey around 11 a.m. Sunday.
Seaside police Lt. Ron Allen said taped telephone conversations in Monterey County Jail between parolee Marcus Crooms, 24, and his girlfriend Michele Chioino, 26, revealed a conspiracy to commit a robbery that investigators say turned out to be the bingo game heist at the popular community center in Seaside.
Crooms and Chioino pleaded not guilty Thursday at their arraignment in Salinas. Both were charged with four felony counts of robbery. Each count was coupled with a gang enhancement. Both were also charged with conspiracy to commit robbery. One enhancement for a prior prison sentence was attached to Crooms’ charge.
Using vaguely coded language, Crooms gave instructions to Chioino to coordinate and buy supplies for a robbery, according to law enforcement documents. Crooms mentioned that the robbery should focus on two men manning a table, the documents say.
Miguel Hernandez, Chioino’s attorney, said she is being unfairly persecuted because of the criminal histories of some members of her extended family. One of those people is Patrick Hernandez Chioino, who in 2002 went on a 22-hour shooting and crime rampage that included robberies, carjackings and a police shoot-out in Watsonville.
“I believe the Seaside Police Department has gone way beyond proper decorum and are singling her out because of her name. I believe they are harassing her,” Hernandez said.