Man accused of holding up nine stores in San Diego, Orange counties to stand trial

Man held up La Mesa store wearing a Santa hat

EL CAJON, Calif. - A man who allegedly committed nine robberies in San Diego and Orange counties -- including one in which he wore a Santa hat while holding up a liquor store in La Mesa -- waived his right to a preliminary hearing Monday and will stand trial May 14.

Bertho Payton Gauthier, 23, was charged last year with the robbery in La Mesa. He was arraigned today on 17 felony charges, including multiple counts of robbery and making a criminal threat.

Gauthier is charged with robbing businesses in El Cajon, La Mesa, San Diego, San Marcos, Vista and San Clemente, according to Deputy District Attorney Jim Koerber.

In three of those robberies, Gauthier allegedly fired a gun into a counter, wall and ceiling, Koerber said.

In the La Mesa liquor store robbery last Dec. 21, the defendant allegedly pulled a handgun on a clerk at the business in the 5300 block of Lake

Murray Boulevard and demanded cash from the register shortly after 3 p.m.

After the victim handed over an undisclosed amount of money, the bandit left the shop and drove off to the north in a dark gray Mazda 6, police said.  

An police officer heading to the robbery site spotted the car in the 5000 block of Baltimore Drive, pulled it over and arrested Gauthier. The stolen cash and a pistol were recovered from the sedan, police said.

The defendant faces 66 years in prison if convicted.

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