A 17-year-old Cayucos teenager suspected of robbing three businesses in Morro Bay — a bank, a liquor store and a cigarette shop — pleaded not guilty in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Monday.
The county District Attorney’s Office decided to charge Tony Eugene Avila as an adult because of the severity of the crimes, which involved a loaded handgun, and because he is about six weeks away from turning 18, spokesman Jerret Gran said.
The charges facing Avila are three counts of second-degree robbery and one count of attempted robbery, with enhancements for allegedly using a firearm during the crimes. They carry a maximum sentence of 27 years and eight months, Gran said.
Avila, a senior at Coast Union High School in Cambria, entered his plea Monday before Judge Barry LaBarbera. His next hearing date was set for Dec. 5.
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Avila will remain in the San Luis Obispo County Juvenile Justice Center. He’ll be transferred to San Luis Obispo County Jail after he turns 18.
Avila was arrested on Nov. 14 after Morro Bay police received a report of an armed robbery at Founders Community Bank.
Witnesses described a suspect that resembled a person involved in recent robberies in the city, according to a probable-cause statement filed by police.
Police searched the area after the robbery and located a vehicle that matched a description given by witnesses. Officers stopped the vehicle and arrested Avila at gunpoint, according to the report.
They allegedly found a loaded handgun in the vehicle, along with the stolen money from the bank. Witnesses at the bank positively identified Avila as the suspect, according to the report.
Police believe the teen is also connected to the Oct. 23 robbery of a cigarette store and the Nov. 2 robbery of a liquor store. Officers said Avila admitted to committing all three crimes.
On Friday, police arrested a second juvenile in connection with the robbery of the liquor store on Nov. 2. The unnamed 16-year-old Cambria resident was taken into custody at Coast Union High School, where he is a student, authorities said. Witnesses reportedly said he was a lookout.