Serial SoCal Bandit Hoped for Leniency Because of Painful Childhood

During a five-day period in mid-May of last year, a brazenly careless armed bandit executed eight robberies in Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties.

But catching the thief wasn’t exactly complicated for special agents at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The young Latino bandit wearing a distinct mustache and a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap left glaring, nincompoop clues during the crimes: he hopped out of the same silver, four-door Chrysler 200 sedan with tinted windows and visible license plates; he demanded the loot be placed in the same neon yellow bag; and he wore the same watch on his wrist.

But perhaps the biggest clue 21-year-old Ruben Maurice Saenz gave detectives was plainly displayed on his face. Saenz had tattooed “KILLA” on his chin. That’s the moniker he used, ATF determined.

After his capture at a Norwalk motel, Saenz sought a prison punishment of no more than 48 months, citing his background as homeless while growing up without meaningful parental supervision in Watts, his status as a onetime special education student, his methamphetamine addiction and his genuine care for his three kids he had with a woman who left him heartbroken by leaving him for another man.

The defense also claimed that Saenz—who has a tear drop tattooed under his right eye—had acted while intoxicated under the direction of an older mastermind, who picked the robbery targets (convenience stores, gas stations and a phone store), provided the weapon, drove the getaway vehicle and took most of the stolen funds.

His motive? To get money for his kids’ diapers and food, and to help his mother from becoming homeless again, Saenz told detectives.

Federal prosecutors acknowledged the defendant deserved credit for conceding guilt before a trial and suffers undisclosed mental incapacities.

But, in seeking a term of 87 months, they also noted his crimes were “dangerous and violent” and had “placed many innocent lives at risk” during robberies in Seal Beach, Buena Park, Moreno Valley, Long Beach, Lynwood, South Gate and Fullerton.

This month, U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter decided the appropriate prison sentence is 78 months. When Saenz is released from custody, he will undergo supervised probation for three years. Federal officials have not yet disclosed his housing status.

CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; earned six dozen other reporting awards; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; featured in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.

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