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Gunman gets 30 years for 2005 heist

NEW PORT RICHEY — Five men went to the West Side Efficiency Motel in 2005, authorities say, intent on robbing John Faulkner of drugs and money.

But they botched it, and Faulkner paid the price. One gunshot left him dead and another person wounded.

The five men accused in the heist have been paying a price, too. Carlos Oscar Fuentes, the one accused of firing the fatal shot, agreed Thursday to pay with three decades of his life.

He pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

He'll get credit for the 1,000-plus days — nearly three years — he spent in the county jail. But he must spend at least 25 years total behind bars.

Fuentes, 22, is the fourth of the five men charged in Faulkner's death to be sent to prison. Fuentes was the accused gunman; the rest were charged with murder as accomplices, as Faulkner, 46, died in the commission of a robbery they were all accused of taking part in.

Authorities say all five showed up at the Hudson motel about 6 a.m. June 29, 2005, to rob Faulkner.

Three went up to the motel room: Fuentes, Adam Jones and Anthony Vernon Ponds. Two stayed in the car: driver Bryan Charles Presley and Leonard Joseph Rera, the nephew of their target, Faulkner.

A scuffle ensued in the hallway outside. Jones told Fuentes to shoot.

Fuentes did. Authorities say the bullet from his .45 killed Faulkner and passed through the motel door behind him, critically injuring Jessica Diaz.

Originally all five men faced charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Presley, now 22, pleaded guilty in 2006 to being an accessory after the fact to a capital felony and got six years in prison.

Rera, now 22, also struck a plea bargain that year in his uncle's death. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder and got 20 years in prison.

Ponds, now 22, pleaded guilty to the same charges in 2006 and got 15 years.

Jones, now 24, is the lone remaining defendant. He is awaiting trial for first-degree murder and could face life in prison if convicted. The state and defense are battling over his mental competency.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6236.

Gunman gets 30 years for 2005 heist 06/26/08 [Last modified: Saturday, June 28, 2008 11:00am]
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