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Man with history of being a serial robber arrested again in alleged new spree



COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — A man with a history of being a serial robber, who was on federal supervised release, was arrested again Thursday for allegedly robbing or attempting to rob at least nine businesses in Salt Lake County over the past four days.

Robert McDonald, 50, is believed to have attempted robberies in Sandy, Midvale, Millcreek, Holladay and Cottonwood Heights between Sunday and Wednesday, according to police. He attempted five robberies on Wednesday alone, according to Cottonwood Heights Police Lt. JD Tazoi.

In each case, McDonald would approach the counter with a hat and mask covering most of his face except for his eyes, place his hands under his shirt or near his waistband and make statements indicating he had a gun while demanding money, Tazoi said. It was not immediately known if he actually displayed a gun in any of his alleged robbery attempts.

In Cottonwood Heights, he is accused of robbing: Panda Express, 6927 Park Centre Dr. on April 18; Dan’s Market, 2029 E. 7000 South on April 19; and attempting to rob Starbucks, 7025 S. Highland Dr. on Wednesday.

After the Starbucks robbery failed, Tazoi said McDonald tried to rob the Specialty Market in Midvale, 842 E. Fort Union Blvd. That robbery also failed, according to Unified police. McDonald on Wednesday also tried to rob Randee & Company, 2036 E. 6200 South, just after 10:30 a.m., and a Subway, 3943 S. Wasatch Blvd., about 7 p.m., police said.

In Sandy, he is accused of robbing a hair salon and dry cleaning business, according to a police affidavit.

After each robbery, McDonald would run to a car he parked nearby and drive off, the affidavit states. During at least one of the robberies, police said his girlfriend was waiting in the car, apparently unaware of what was happening.

A victim from one of the robberies in Sandy on Wednesday was able to get a picture of McDonald’s car and license plate.

The failed robberies were usually the result of the business not having any cash or employees unable to get the safe or register open, Tazoi said.

McDonald was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of nine counts of aggravated robbery.

“It is unknown when he would stop and what he would have done to elude officers,” police wrote in the affidavit, while also noting that McDonald “concealed his hands under his clothing and made frantic movements with his arm and body (during the robberies). Law enforcement officers were concerned he was armed based on his actions the past few days and the night of his apprehension, which occurred at an apartment complex with high-density housing.”

McDonald was convicted in federal court under the Hobbs Act in 2010, according to court records. The Hobbs Act is used against people engaged in robbery or attempted robbery that affects interstate commerce.

He was accused of committing a series of robberies in that case that included a Starbucks in Murray, a Papa John’s Pizza and a Utah Ski and Golf store in Cottonwood Heights, and a salon in Salt Lake City, according to court records.

He was sentenced to over five years in federal prison. McDonald was placed on federal supervised release in July of 2019 for three years. He was ordered to have random drug tests during his release “due to his history of illicit drug use,” according to federal court documents.

Prior to that, McDonald was charged in five cases with aggravated robbery in 3rd District Court in 2003. As part of a global resolution to all the cases, he pleaded guilty in two cases in exchange for the others being dismissed. McDonald was sentenced to six years to life in the Utah State Prison, according to court records.

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