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Armed Robbery in Downtown Boonville

Mi Esperanza, a tidy little market at the corner of Haehl Street and Highway 128, was robbed at gunpoint Friday afternoon about two-thirty. Few details are yet known, but first reports say the robber was a youngish white man who fled on foot. 

Several Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the site soon after the robbery, and quickly fanned out to search for the culprit. The store, typically staffed by a pair of pleasant older women, one of whom is the owner, Maria Guadalupe Farias, is known to offer check-cashing, primarily serves the Anderson Valley’s Spanish-speaking community. 

The market is housed on the premises of Jeff and Carolyn Short’s former service station. 

The Sheriff’s Department is said to be looking for a Chilean national who is presumed to have committed the robbery.

The last armed robbery in the Anderson Valley was carried out in 2011 by Oakland thugs who wielded handguns to rob three Anderson Valley men of many pounds of processed marijuana. Ironically, the marijuana robbery was carried out at the same site as Friday’s robbery, although the dope robbery occurred in the site’s former former service bay, not the building which has since become Mi Esperanza (My Hope.) 

The Oakland crew who carried out the marijuana theft are remembered by locals as the “Lights Out Gang” because they were apprehended the same night as they sped southbound on 101, headlights off. The next day, the three men who’d lost their marijuana approached an incredulous Deputy Squires to ask if they could get their marijuana back.

The Mi Esperanza robbery has predictably inspired much comment, which follows:

(1) Interesting, about 1:30 this afternoon there was a young thuggish looking guy on a kid’s bike in the driveway next to the ice cream store… He would not make eye contact, I have never seen him before. Baseball hat on backwards, 20s to 30s. Or maybe he’s just one of our locals I haven’t seen close up.

(2) Many small town markets cash checks for locals. Especially true in areas with farm and ranch labor as many don’t have banking privileges. $20k isn’t much if you are acting as the blue collar bank. Robbery on Friday….. makes perfect sense

(3) They need a drop safe. No business should have more than $500 accessible for situations like this. $500 is enough to satisfy a thief and not too much to lose.

(4) Within the culture having a large sum of cash is not unusual. Store owners, especially remote ones have cash on hand. The unusual part is the lack of security because typically there’s a few people around paying attention. Cameras. If it was honest ignorance may it be a learning moment. Shocking the gullibility. Agreed no drop box super lame. Oh, and I just remembered: A lot of those vineyard workers don’t have identification cards or driver’s licenses that other stores recognize, so they would be unable to cash their checks elsewhere or get a ride to Ukiah, so this robbery puts the whole Mexican community in a big bind. It would be nice to see some of the rich locals step up and help out but more likely it’s the poor who will help the poor and the rich will go blithely on unconscious of these people’s hardships.

(5) Bruce McEwen: I used to shop at the store behind the old gas station quite frequently, and knew the owner and his wife — although, shame on me I can’t recall their names — who both ran the cash register, and there were always vineyard workers coming in to cash their paychecks and send money home to Mexico. There is another Mexican store that does this in Ukiah, on South State Street, and maybe others I haven’t seen. Anyway, it was a pretty close-knit society — like Americans are in other countries — and they all seemed to know one another and kept on friendly terms so there wasn’t any obvious security like you see at Western Union offices in Safeway stores. And as far as I know the charge for check-cashing wasn’t as brutal as the gouging you get at Western Union. On a payday Friday, early in the afternoon, before the workers had come in with their checks, there was probably a lot more cash on hand than would normally be the case, So the robber was probably familiar with the pleasant little store and its proprietors, the big bin of roasted peanuts, fresh local produce, and Mexican staples like tomatillos, cilantro, peppers, beans and rice. Of course they sold the coldest beer in town, too. I can see their smiling faces, the owner’s and the woman’s (who I assume was his wife) in my mind’s eye, but can’t for the life of me remember their first names. If you find out, please tell me, as I’m sure I’ll remember the instant you say say it. He is a tall thin man, very outgoing with a pleasant demeanor and she was of medium height, pretty and pleasant. I recall one vineyard worker introducing a new guy telling the newbie this was the place to cash his check even though he had no ID card. Hell, I had no ID card back then, and it was Ruben and Beryl down the street at the Boonville Market who cashed my checks. Great place and great people! Mi Esperanza is Spanish for “My Hope” and the owner was just that— he had hoped to make a go of it and it was going swell — until this jerk came in and did this to them. All the guys coming in last Friday to cash their checks would now have to go over the hill to Ukiah to cash their checks and send money home, and I hope Mi Esperanza can get back on their feet and get going again. One more thing. I hate to say it but the white community has a nasty habit of dismissing anything like this as proof of “Cartels” moving in and taking over the weed business. There was something of this hinted at in some of the comments, you know, “what were these Mixicans doing with all that money… (must be laundering illegal weed money, huh?)” and that’s why I posted my comment. It seems everyone tends to fall back on this Cartel myth to fix blame on the Mexican-American community, a nasty, knee-jerk habit. California was Mexicans and Native Americans (before J.C. Fremont mapped the trails out here and brought in people like Hastings and Pat Kittle).

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Armed Robbery In Boonville (from the Sheriff’s Department):

On Friday, December 9, 2022 at 2:40 PM Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to a reported arm robbery at the Mi Esperanza Market located at 14289 Highway 128 in Boonville, California.

It was reported that a person, possibly an adult male, had entered the business with a handgun and committed an armed robbery of a large amount of money, estimated to be $20,000.00, before leaving the business on foot.

Personnel from the California Highway Patrol and California State Parks arrived approximately 13-minutes after the call had been dispatched to the Deputies. They began a canvas of the immediate area for the suspect which ended unsuccessfully.

Deputies, along with Sheriff’s Detectives, arrived and began investigations into the circumstances of the armed robbery.

Investigators learned the suspect had entered the business at approximately 2:35 PM fully clothed to include a facial covering while an adult female was working alone inside the business.

The suspect was openly holding a handgun downwards near their waistline. The suspect made a hand gesture for the adult female to be silent as he walked behind the counter. The suspect accessed a cash drawer and took a large amount of money thereafter leaving the business on foot.

Sheriff’s Office investigators are actively investigating this armed robbery and have viable leads at this time. To protect the integrity of those leads, no further information is available for public release at this time.

Anyone who believes they have useful information for investigators associated with this incident are asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office Tipline by calling 707-234-2100 or the WeTip Anonymous Crime Reporting Hotline by calling 800-782-7463.

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Update: Boonville Armed Robber Arrested In New York

During the course of this investigation,  Matias Tomas Vietto was identified as being the suspect in this case.

Sheriff's Detectives learned Vietto told friends that he was leaving California to return to his country of origin, Argentina.  Using this information, Sheriff's Detectives discovered Vietto had an international flight booked from the state of New York to Argentina on the evening of 12-10-2022.

An arrest warrant was obtained for Vietto and New York law enforcement authorities were alerted.

On 12-12-2022 at approximately 9:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time), Vietto was arrested by the New York Police Department attempting to travel to Argentina.

Vietto will be held in New York pending extradition back to Mendocino County.

One Comment

  1. Bruce McEwen December 15, 2022

    I wrote this song long ago but it’s as true today

    Froggy Went A-Courtin’

    This old frog lived up under the hill;
    He was rough and tough like Buffalo Bill.
    He covered his face with a red bandanna
    And he robbed the bank in Butte, Montana.

    Uh huh, uh huh, oh yeah. (Chorus)

    He left town and he did ride
    A Bowie knife and a Peacemaker by his side.
    He came ridin’ down off old South Pass,
    The son of Pride on a sorrel ass.


    He hit town the very next day,
    Lookin’ for water and a flake of hay.
    Some of the boys were out in the street
    And we know who they were about to meet…


    Old Vince, he just spit in the dust
    Looked at the frog, and said with disgust,
    You better get off that mule, Clown,
    Me and the boys are gonna show you around.


    They took him into the Rustic Bar
    And introduced him to all the stars,
    He set ‘em up and they knocked ‘em down
    And pretty soon word got around.


    This little mouse lived just across the alley
    She was really cute and her name was Sally:
    She came through the barroom door
    Lookin’ like a Dallas whore — !


    They had the honeymoon first
    and the wedding much later,
    Long after they’d closed
    the old Summer Theatre.


    (Instrumental interlude to convey the passage of time and change in fortunes…)

    That big house they bought’s up for sale
    And the fog’s doin’ time in the Gallatin jail;
    And this little horse opera’s goin’ back on the shelf
    So if you want any more you can sing it yourself.

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