- Associated Press - Monday, April 25, 2016

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A man whose participation in the holdup of two Fargo liquor stores led federal authorities to take over several armed robbery cases in the city was sentenced Monday to 9½ years in prison.

Carlos Bethel, 28, pleaded guilty in January to two counts, including use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

His was one of seven armed robberies in Fargo in September, which was half the total for 2015. The rash of holdups persuaded U.S. Attorney Chris Myers of North Dakota to take on several of the cases, meaning sentencing can be more severe than in state court.

“The reason we became involved was basically a crime spree that escalated,” Myers said.

Authorities say Bethel and Andrew Ford took turns robbing two liquor stores in south Fargo within an hour of each other on Sept. 28. The men acted as getaway drivers for each other. Ford was sentenced earlier to 8½ years in prison.

Bethel told authorities he robbed the liquor store because he was behind on rent and child support.

“I feel ashamed. It was out of my character,” he told U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson at Monday’s sentencing. “I was desperate. It’s something that I will never do again.”

Erickson said Bethel deserved more prison time than Ford because of an escalating number of violent crimes within a four-month period. Bethel admitted to a home invasion robbery with a firearm in Hillsboro on June 24, a crime Erickson said “lit the fuse.” Bethel also admitted to two separate home burglaries where six firearms were stolen and a pistol-whipping assault that knocked out the victim.

“This behavior ends up putting the whole community at risk,” Erickson said. “It is only through the grace of God, frankly, that someone didn’t wind up dead.”

Bethel said he came to the Red River Valley on a football scholarship to a junior college in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and had been majoring in criminal justice before dropping out.

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