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Prosecutors Will Try Bank-Robbery Suspect a 3rd Time

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Santa Clarita man will be tried a third time in two home-invasion bank robberies following an earlier acquittal in federal court and a mistrial in a recent state prosecution.

Alex Yepes will again face charges that he was the mastermind behind a crime ring that robbed banks in Northridge and Canyon Country in 1993.

Prosecutors said a retrial is necessary, while a defense attorney protested the unusual decision.

“There should be a three-strikes law against prosecutors,” said an unhappy Gerald Scotti, the lawyer who has twice successfully defended Yepes.

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Prosecutors said that in the most recent prosecution for kidnapping, assault and robbery, 11 of the 12 jurors agreed that Yepes was guilty of committing 27 offenses.

“The case will go forward,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Philip H. Wynn said. “The decision was made based on the facts of the case, his involvement and culpability and what we believed the appropriate sentence should be.”

Authorities allege that Yepes, along with Darren Patrick Towers, 28, and brothers Brett and Chad Pelch, 28 and 25, targeted female bank managers, holding them hostage in their homes overnight before forcing them to open bank vaults.

Towers, who confessed to the FBI, is serving a 15-year federal prison sentence under a plea bargain. The Pelch brothers, sons of a Los Angeles police sergeant and co-defendants in the Yepes case, were found guilty of a home-invasion bank robbery in Canyon Country in June 1993. Brett Pelch was also convicted of charges connected to a second robbery in Northridge in September 1993.

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Yepes was acquitted of federal charges in 1994 after using an alibi that he was at a rock concert at the time of one of the robberies. He used the same alibi in the six-month state trial in San Fernando Superior Court, which ended in a mistrial earlier this month.


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