John Gamboa, 23, received a prison sentence of 10-30 years Monday afternoon in Ottawa County Circuit Court. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $10,666.
“It's sometimes difficult to justify a prison sentence for property crimes," Judge Ed Post said, "but Mr. Gamboa and his cohorts caused a lot of misery for the victims, and a lengthy prison sentence is appropriate, especially considering the offender's prior record."
Gamboa pleaded guilty to two counts of breaking and entering and one count of safe breaking in connection with the July 20 break-ins of several businesses in a strip mall on U.S. 31, just south of Ferris Street in Grand Haven Township.
The Holland man's crime companions — brothers Malachi Sosa, 18, and Damien Sosa, 20, both also of Holland — were sentenced previously. Malachi received 180 days in jail and was put on probation for three years. Damien received one year in jail and three years of probation.
John Weenum, the owner of Mancino's, said video surveillance tape from the restaurant helped seal the deal.
The video shows three men, wearing masks and hooded jackets, working their way around the business with their cellphones as lights. Weenum said the video shows them first ransacking the front of the restaurant and pulling out cash drawers, and then tearing apart the safe in his office.
“They were in here with their cellphones for light, not knowing that I had the night-vision camera,” Weenum said.
But Mancino's didn’t have an alarm system at the time and the thieves stayed in the pizza business for 19 minutes before moving on.
They spent a lot less time at three other shops in the strip mall: Plantenga’s Cleaners, New Creation Coffee and Acquario Hair Salon.
“We were the ones that had the alarm activated at the time,” said Tracy Helder, owner of New Creation Coffee.
Her son said for a previous story that the alarm is extremely loud. The monitor log showed the suspects in the store for less than a minute.
Helder said they didn’t lose anything monetarily, but the upheaval was disconcerting, considering they had recently opened the store.
In the Mancino’s video, one of the men was wearing a plaid jacket, and that helped police pinpoint the culprits a month later, Weenum said.
The group, who had been hitting 2-3 businesses a week, laid low for a month after the amount of publicity generated by the Grand Haven Township break-ins.
Weenum said it was nearly a month later that someone saw something suspicious at Hungry Howies in Allendale and called 911. A sheriff’s deputy on 68th Avenue then stopped a suspicious vehicle and found a plaid coat matching the one in the Mancino’s video in the back seat of the suspect's car, Weenum said.
Much of this information was revealed during a preliminary hearing on the case, Weenum said.
The restaurant owner said it's important to him to stay on top of the case. He gave a victim’s statement at each man’s sentencing.
Weenum told Gamboa that he lost seven years of work on the business computer that was stolen and wiped clean. His insurance carrier now considers his business a high risk and raised his rates by 25 percent.
“I don’t know the total number of (business break-ins) that this group is responsible for, but after the first break-in they all or individually could have stopped and got help,” Weenum said. “After 20 or 30 or more break-ins, they had no regard for the hard-working men and women that make up the small business in West Michigan.”
Since the break-in, Weenum said he has installed an alarm system and updated Mancino's surveillance cameras.
“We’ve changed some of our business practices just to be smarter,” he said.
While something like this shouldn’t happen in this community, it’s resulted in a lot of positive community support, Weenum said.
“And, justice has been served,” he added.