The so-called mastermind of the Three Amigos convenience store robbery was found guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder.
The jury found Raul Andino’s actions led to the death of motorist Samuel Salomon, 70, who took a bullet in the chest that was meant for the store manager in pursuit of the getaway car.
And Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley sentenced Andino, 32, to life in prison, which is mandatory for the murder count. The judge said after the weeklong trial that the newly convicted felon will never walk free.
Edward Salomon, the victim’s son who was present for the entire trial, said after the verdict that Andino is “an untamed animal that needs to be caged.”
In a letter read by a prosecutor, Salomon said he wished Andino could receive the death penalty for greedy actions that took the life of a beloved husband, and father of four sons and grandfather.
Prosecutors had decided not to seek the death penalty in the case; Spanish authorities made that request before Andino was to face prosecution.
Andino also was convicted of the attempted murder of Three Amigos manager Sian Kiat “Sam” Koh, armed robbery and other charges. The jury deliberated for three hours.
In all, Andino was sentenced to six consecutive terms of life in prison plus 30 years, as his brother, Sweetwater City Police Officer Hector Encarnacion, wept in the courtroom along with other loved ones.
“Never forget, we’re blood,” Encarnacion told his older brother. “I’m sorry for the actions you took.”
Wiping his eyes of tears, Encarnacion also turned to Edward Salomon and apologized.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” he said. “My family has suffered, nowhere near as much as yours has.”
Prosecutors told the jury Tuesday the Three Amigos robbery on Nov. 30, 2007 almost didn’t happen.
That’s because Andino allegedly intended to hit a Miami Lakes check cashing store instead, until a late change of plans moved the operation north to West Boynton.
Five of Andino’s co-defendants were previously convicted and are serving life terms for the same charges. A sixth accomplice, Nelson Urbina, 38, pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge and testified against Andino, who for years had eluded authorities until his 2012 capture in Spain.
Urbina testified that the presence of cops at the Miami Lakes store forced Andino to “call an audible” and order the gang to instead target Three Amigos, said Assistant State Attorney John Parnofiello. Instead of a clean escape, Koh gave chase on Florida’s Turnpike while speaking with a 911 operator.
Urbina said his role included picking up Andino in West Boca after the group abandoned the getaway car following the chase by Koh. The manager said the robbers stole $58,000 from his combination grocery-check cashing business.
But defense attorney Michael Maher said Urbina lied to curry favor with prosecutors in the hopes of reducing his 18-year prison sentence.
During his closing argument, Maher said his client is “without question” guilty of one robbery charge and one burglary count.
But the lawyer contends Urbina actually picked up Andino along a dirt road near Three Amigos, in the 9800 block of West Boynton Beach Boulevard. That means Andino was not in the Dodge Magnum when one of the robbers fired at Koh’s Mercedes, with one of the four bullets hitting Salomon while he was stuck in traffic on West Atlantic Avenue near the turnpike.
The retired kosher baker was on his way home from Hanukkah shopping with his wife Yvonne, who that the driver’s side “window just exploded” and it sounded like a rock hit it.
Salomon was able to put the minivan in neutral before losing consciousness.
“He just passed out,” his wife said. “I didn’t know that he died.”
The widow has testified at all nine previous trials in the case.
Maher said Andino had everything to do with the robbery and nothing to do with the shooting.
The attorney also tried to downplay the robbery as being less dramatic as portrayed by prosecutors Parnofiello and Lauren Godden through the showing of surveillance videos. He said Three Amigos was back serving customers within moments.
“Incredibly the business starts operating again as if nothing happened,” Maher said, adding that it was a botched job by thieves who were inept.
“Jesse James would be ashamed,” he told the jury. “Not the kind of robbery done by professionals.”
Andino elected not to testify in his own defense.
But the prosecutors said Urbina’s account was accurate, and Andino was in the getaway car at the time the shots were fired.
And they pointed out it doesn’t matter anyway that Andino didn’t shoot Salomon because the robbery and murder are all connected.
“He is just as responsible as the person who pulled the trigger,” Parnofiello said. “That is the law in the state of Florida. The law punishes people who decide to commit violent crimes together.”
, or Twitter