2 men get long prison sentences for home invasion series, sex assault

SAN DIEGO - Two men convicted in a series of home-invasion robberies and sexual assault in northern San Diego were sentenced Friday.

A judge sentenced 22-year-old Aaron Rico III to 60 years and 27-year-old Thomas James Smith to 135 years to life in prison.

The men were convicted of taking part in a northern San Diego home-invasion series in which residents were robbed at gunpoint, tied up and sexually assaulted.  Prosecutors said Smith and Rico were part of a robbery crew that carried out the crimes from January 23 to February 11, 2016.

In June, Smith was found guilty of 30 charges and Rico was convicted of 27 counts.

Smith had a 2008 robbery conviction from Juvenile Court and a 2014 conviction for burglary. He was on probation at the time of the 10 break-ins in early 2016 in Mira Mesa, Sorrento Valley, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Sabre Springs, Scripps Ranch and Rancho Bernardo.

Both he and Rico were also convicted of sexual penetration with the use of force.

Several of the victims spoke in court.

"I felt like I was a piece of porn. I never felt so dehumanized and degraded," said one of the victims.

"I think that it is correct that you are going away for the rest of your lives," said another victim.

Deputy District Attorney Jalyn Wang told a jury that Smith and Rico were part of a robbery crew dubbed the "Open Door Bandits," so named because in most of the break-ins, the robbers gained access to homes through an unlocked door.

Wang said that Smith and Rico were two of the major players in the robbery crew.

A third major player, Stephen Ramon Gomez, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years, eight months to life in prison.

Four other defendants, Aaron Rico V, Victor Harvey, Robin Shawver and Jordan Wilson, also pleaded guilty and have been sentenced.