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Jewelry thief sentenced

A million-dollar heist brings a 16-year sentence for a man sentenced to life in another case.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 24, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- A man who stole more than $1-million in merchandise from a Spring Hill jewelry store after holding the manager and his family hostage received a 16-year prison sentence Monday.

Anthony Ahedo, 28, of St. Petersburg pleaded no contest to charges of armed kidnapping, home invasion, burglary, grand theft and dealing in stolen property. Authorities say Ahedo and one other armed man broke into the manager's home in the middle of the night in January 1999 and tied up the family. Once the manager turned over the store key, Ahedo drove to Goldsmith Jewelers and ransacked the place.

Ahedo's lawyers said his client desperately wanted his "day in court" but decided to plead because he has already been convicted and sentenced to life in prison on a Pinellas County case of armed burglary and grand theft. Ahedo plans to appeal the Pinellas County sheriff's search that led to evidence in both cases, said attorney Chip Harp.

"(The cops) went in with guns drawn and did not get consent to search the house until after," Harp said. "That consent is void."

Prosecutors disagree with that description of the search, saying officers were armed but did not have their guns out. Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto added that the issue had been brought up during pretrial motions for both cases and was denied both times.

Although prosecutors could have asked jurors to give Ahedo six lifetimes in prison if Ahedo had gone to trial and been convicted, Catto said he settled for the 16-year deal because his case hinged on testimony of questionable witnesses. Some were involved in the crime itself and almost all had previous criminal records, he said. Among them was Brandiss Morales, Ahedo's girlfriend at the time of the robbery who served as a lookout.

"They were unreliable," Catto said.

Nor did prosectors have any DNA evidence linking Ahedo to the crime. The other man involved, Carl Campos, pleaded guilty in January to kidnapping and home invasion charges after authorities matched his DNA to DNA on a wine cooler bottle left at the home. Campos had released the family unharmed. He was sentenced to 15 years.

Also complicating things was the fact that the men wore masks. None of the victims saw their faces, Catto said.

"Everyone wants this case to be over," Catto said. "(The victims) know he's already serving life in Pinellas County."

Ahedo also is awaiting trial on federal charges connecting him with a string of robberies authorities say are copies of the Goldsmith Jewelers case. He was sentenced by Circuit Judge Jack Springstead.

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