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Convicted robber sentenced to prison

Freedom New Mexico

One of four men police say was chased down by a daring bank executive is facing 12 years in prison for robbing the American Heritage Bank in Melrose.

Santos Preciado, 19, pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony counts of armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and tampering with evidence, according to Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler.

Chandler said Preciado was sentenced to 12 years in prison and faces another two years parole after his release.

Chandler said Preciado, Marcos Maestas, 20, Patrick Quintana, 25, and Juana Griego, 19, left Tucumcari on April 12 with the intention of robbing the Melrose bank.

According to arrest affidavits, the group entered the bank and Preciado posted a misspelled “closed” sign on the door, then he and Quintana ran toward the tellers, jumped onto the counter and into the teller area and began gathering money.

Maestas stood guard at the door while Preciado waved a gun at the clerks and yelled that they give him money, records show.

Preciado shoved the money into a black backpack and Quintana filled the cargo pockets of his pants, the affidavits said. The group then fled the bank and got into a gray Pontiac four-door.

Chandler said bank Chief Executive Officer Gordon Morris pursued the group as they sped out of the area, calling police dispatch and giving directions as they reached speeds of up to 95 mph.

Morris told police he saw the suspects throwing clothing and other items out of the vehicle as they fled. They later told police they were trying to discard their disguises so they would not get caught with evidence, the affidavits said.

The group was apprehended when state police, based on the direction of travel Morris was giving, set up a road block on State Road 209.

The weapons used in the robbery — a pellet gun, a machete and a baseball bat — were recovered, police said.

According to Curry County Detention Center employee Debbie Hackman, Quintana and Griego are in custody at CCDC, and Maestas is in custody at the Bailey County Detention Center in Bailey County, Texas.

“We were very pleased with the resolution of this case. It was a very trying moment for the employees at the bank, and very traumatic,” Chandler said.

Preciado’s attorney Thomas Harden declined comment.

Chandler said he couldn’t comment on the other three defendants in the case other than to say, “They certainly will have their day in court as well, though.”

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