Two defendants in $1.3 million Mariposa gold heist plead no contest

04/22/2013 7:47 PM

04/22/2013 7:52 PM

Two of five men accused of participating in last year's brazen $1.3 million gold and gem robbery at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa pleaded no contest Monday afternoon to numerous charges.

Michael Anthony Gomes and Matthew Campbell reached plea deals with prosecutors in Mariposa County Superior Court.

Gomes pleaded no contest to seven counts, which included assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft, auto theft and second degree burglary. He'll be sentenced to five years, four months in prison, according to his attorney, John Garcia. Gomes will be eligible for parole after serving about half of his sentence.

Campbell pleaded no contest to three counts, which included attempted robbery and vehicle code violations. He'll serve less than a year in jail.

Garcia said he believes the remaining three defendants — Christopher Scott Sheffield, Jonathan Matis, and Edward Rushing III — will probably reach plea deals with prosecutors in the upcoming weeks.

Gomes admitted to being at the scene of the robbery, and admitted to using a pick-ax, according to Garcia. Gomes would have faced more than 10 years behind bars if he’d been convicted by a jury.

Garcia said his client agreed to testify in the case and has cooperated with investigators. Garcia said his client also helped investigators recover some of the smaller items that were taken from the museum.

The robbery happened Sept. 28 when the robbers, dressed in black and wearing hoods, entered the museum's vault about 4 p.m. after threatening a guide and curator with pickaxes. During the two-minute heist, the robbers stole an estimated $1.3 million in gold and gems after smashing display cases.

The museum, which is operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, is home to more than 13,000 artifacts dating back to the 1800s.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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