Man arrested for grocery store holdups in Rantoul, Arcola

Man arrested for grocery store holdups in Rantoul, Arcola

RANTOUL — A Rantoul man was arrested Saturday morning for holdups of grocery stores in Arcola and Rantoul that happened Wednesday and Thursday.

Rantoul police Sgt. Justin Bouse said detectives from those two cities on Saturday recovered the bulk of the cash that Pablo D. Molina, 39, admitted he took because he needed money to "pay bills."

Molina, who listed an address in the 1000 block of Briarcliff Drive, was taken into custody without incident in connection with the Wednesday afternoon robbery of the Regiomontana Mexican store on Springfield Road, Arcola, and the Thursday night holdup of the El Mercardito store at 122 S. Garrard, Rantoul.

Bouse said at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, police were sent to El Mercardito, where the owner reported that about two hours earlier a man wearing a mask over his face and the hood of a coat pulled over his head entered the store through the front door.

The man turned off the lights and displayed a long gun to the male employee and ordered him to turn over cash, which the employee did.

He then left the business walking to a nearby alley.

Bouse said the owner told police he didn't report the holdup immediately because he was scared.

Rantoul investigators were combing through surveillance video on Friday when Arcola police contacted them about their Wednesday robbery.

In that incident, a man entered Regiomontana about 1:20 p.m. and displayed what the employee thought was a small handgun, demanded cash and left in a pickup truck after getting it.

Bouse said Arcola authorities learned that the man in their holdup was Molina and obtained a warrant for his arrest Friday from a Douglas County judge. He was charged with armed robbery in that county.

Meantime, Bouse said the video from the Rantoul holdup showed a sport utility vehicle that was in the nearby alley before and after the robbery at El Mercardito.

That vehicle was spotted Saturday at Molina's Briarcliff home.

Molina was stopped late Saturday morning as he left the home in the pickup truck believed used in the Arcola holdup.

Police from Arcola and Rantoul obtained search warrants for both vehicles and Molina's home and found what Bouse described Saturday night as "a substantial amount of the cash from both robberies."

He had not counted what they found yet but said that more than $14,000 had been stolen from the stores.

Police also found in the SUV a pellet gun rifle.

In an interview Saturday afternoon with Bouse, Molina admitted to both holdups, saying that he had a pipe up his sleeve at the Arcola store, which he later tossed on the interstate between Arcola and Rantoul.

"He needed money to pay bills," the investigator said.

Molina was taken to the Champaign County jail, where he was expected to make a court appearance Sunday and be formally charged on Monday.

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