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'Open Door Bandits' crime spree leaders sentenced to prison

Posted: 12:31 PM, Aug 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-18 00:17:37Z

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Two men convicted of leading a home-invasion robbery spree with five other people were sentenced to prison terms Friday.

A judge sentenced 26-year-old Thomas James Smith to 85 years plus 50 years to life in prison and 22-year-old Aaron Rico III to 35 years plus 25 years to life in prison for their roles the series of violent break-ins.

Smith and Rico were convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary, robbery, burglary and sexual assault in June. The violent crime spree began on January 23. The series of crimes included breaking into homes, tying up and assaulting homeowners, and in one case, sexually assaulting a woman. 

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In another break-in, a 2-year-old child's hands were tied up with electrical tape.

"The defendants were going in, wearing masks, wearing hoods over their heads, holding victims up while they were asleep," Deputy District Attorney Jalyn Wang told jurors during the course of the trial. "They were tying them up using the victims own items shoelaces from their shoes, zip ties, toy handcuffs, clothing items --- one incident woman sexually assaulted."

The two were part of a group known as the "Open Door Bandits," because in most of the 10 break-ins, the robbers gained access to homes through unlocked doors.

A third major player, Stephen Ramon Gomez, pleaded guilty in the case. Four other defendants, Aaron Rico V, Victor Harvey, Robin Shawver and Jordan Wilson, also pleaded guilty.