Joseph Anthony Perez mugshot. Photo via Santa Ana Police Department
Joseph Anthony Perez mugshot. Photo via City of Santa Ana Police Department

An ex-con recently released early from jail was charged Wednesday with two bank robberies and five attempted stickups in Santa Ana and Fountain Valley over a three-day span.

The early release, possibly due to jail overcrowding, is an example of “flash incarcerations” that are “a joke,” according to one police officer, who said defendants “just laugh at them.”

Police allege 27-year-old Joseph Anthony Perez’s crime spree started about 9:30 a.m. Saturday when he attempted to rob a Bank of America branch at 3730 S. Bristol St. in Santa Ana.

The first of the five robberies and robbery attempts he allegedly undertook on Monday occurred at 11:15 a.m. at a Wells Fargo branch at 1801 E. 17th St., but the bandit failed to get any money, police said.

Other attempted robberies occurred at 12:05 p.m. at a Bank of America branch at 16192 Harbor Blvd. in Fountain Valley; at 12:48 p.m. at a BofA branch at 2015 W. First St.; and 2:52 p.m. at a Chase branch at 3600 S. Bristol St.

Police allege Perez held up a Bank of the West branch at 3931 S. Bristol St. at 3:13 p.m.

The last stickup was the robber’s undoing, as a teller put a tracking device in the stolen loot, police said.

Investigators tracked the suspect to a restaurant at 3713 S. Bristol St. But when officers arrived, they found the device dumped under a car and determined the bandit had run off.

Police later found the suspect walking on Bristol Street. When he spotted the officers, he tried to run away, but was taken into custody a short time later, police said.

Perez has a lengthy criminal history dating back to a 2010 felony vandalism case for which he was placed on three years of probation, which was revoked at one point, according to court records.

He has multiple other convictions in felony and misdemeanor cases involving receiving stolen property, graffiti vandalism, shoplifting, petty theft, possession of burglary tools and possession of stolen property, according to court records. He had four cases filed against him in 2014, two in 2015 and four last year.

On Feb. 10, he was sentenced to two years in jail for pleading guilty last September to burglary and grand theft charges, according to court records. But he never served the full term, possibly because of early release due to prison overcrowding. He was out of custody for about two weeks when he allegedly went on the bank- robbing spree.

Perez represents “another example” of the failure of state laws to reduce prison overcrowding, said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

“These flash incarcerations are a joke,” Bertagna said, adding that defendants “just laugh at them.”

UC Irvine criminal justice experts, however, recently predicted that crime will go down this year and have argued that there’s no evidence that state laws meant to reduce prison overcrowding.

— City News Service

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