Suspects in Barona Casino robbery scheduled to be arraigned today

Two parolees suspected in a series of armed robberies throughout California, including one at Barona Casino and another at a Fashion Valley jewelry store, are scheduled to be arraigned in San Diego today.

Robert Chavira, 40, and Ryan Alan McKnight, 34, were charged last month with robbery and arson and were each ordered held in lieu of $5 million bail.

Deputy District Attorney Rick Clabby told Judge David Szumowski that Chavira and McKnight were involved in five high-risk armed robberies in Costa Mesa, Mission Valley, San Jose, Palm Desert and at the Barona Casino.

On Aug. 2, the armed defendants used sledgehammers to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of watches from a Costa Mesa store, Clabby alleged.

On Sept. 12, the armed defendants drove down a walkway at the Fashion Valley mall and used sledgehammers to break display cases and steal high-end Rolex watches from the Ben Bridge store, he said.

Chavira and McKnight used the same tactic to steal Rolex watches from a high-end jewelry store in San Jose on Oct. 15, Clabby told the judge.

Nine days later, the defendants — armed and wearing masks — allegedly stole more than $1 million in Rolex watches from a store in Palm Desert.

Clabby said the defendants changed their method of operation when they allegedly stole $60,000 to $70,000 from a glass case at the Barona Casino on Nov. 2.

The defendants set fire to a house next to the casino to draw firefighters and authorities away from their target, the prosecutor said.

Clabby alleged that Chavira and McKnight tied a chain to the back of a vehicle and ripped out a glass case containing the cash.

   
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