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Man sentenced to probation in aggravated robbery

An Albert Lea man who pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated robbery in August was sentenced to two years of probation Friday in Freeborn County District.

Judge Steve Schwab said he opted for probation instead of prison time for Nando Cristales-Paul Sanchez, 20, because he felt Sanchez had made positive life changes since he was arrested for the robbery, which took place in July 2019.

Sanchez was one of three people charged in the case and reportedly used a gun to threaten and then rob a man walking on Bridge Avenue. The victim was reportedly an acquaintance of one of the other-co-defendants in the case.

Nando Sanchez

After posting bail with the help of his mother and grandfather, Sanchez reportedly attended in-patient treatment in Owatonna, is now attending recovery meetings at least weekly, has been living sober and has a full-time job, he said during the sentencing hearing.

Sanchez’s mother and grandfather testified Sanchez wanted to continue outpatient treatment after his inpatient treatment but was not able to do so because of the cost. They said he knows what he did was wrong, and they thought he could be successful in the community on probation, noting he has made changes in his life and in people he associates with.

His AA and NA sponsor, who has known Sanchez for many years, said Sanchez has opened his eyes and is beginning to show what kind of a man he can be, instead of doing things to fit into a crowd.

Sanchez said he wants to continue with a sober life and said he has nothing to gain by returning to drugs.

Schwab said he takes the matter seriously of whether to depart from a presumptive sentence of four years in prison to one of probation and noted it is a life-changing decision. In such a case, he said, he considers whether a person would be amenable to probation, whether the person has made positive life changes and if he has a support network.

The judge ordered Sanchez complete a series of conditions during his probation, including obeying all state and federal laws, not possession or using alcohol or controlled substances, complying with random testing and writing a letter of apology to the victim in the case, among others.

He and a co-defendant in the case must also pay restitution for $1,270 to the victim.