June 27, 2014

Former Army medic sentenced to 20 years in prison for Fort Worth smoke shop robbery

Vikram Chauhan had already been sentenced in November to 5 1/2 years in federal prison for robbing a Benbrook bank while free on bond in the smoke shop robbery case

A former Army airborne medic who served two tours in the Middle East will now serve two stints in prison — a 51/2-year sentence for a Benbrook bank robbery and 20 years for robbing a Fort Worth smoke shop in 2011.

Vikram S. Chauhan must first complete his time in federal prison for the bank robbery sentence, which he was sentenced to in November. He will then be transferred to a state prison to begin a 20-year sentenced handed down by a Tarrant County jury on Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Chauhan wore a black mask when he entered the Smokin’ Dragon in the 10600 block of South Freeway on the evening of July 7, 2011, and calmly pointed a .45-caliber handgun equipped with a laser sight at a store owner and a clerk behind the counter.

He demanded money from the register and grabbed dozens of packages of synthetic marijuana known as “Spice” before pushing both victims toward a back office and ordering them to give him money from the cash box. He fled after forcing the victims into a breakroom.

Surveillance video from the business and a neighboring business showed the robber arriving and fleeing in a customized Ford 250 pickup.

Police later identified the truck’s owner, who told them that Chauhan, his roommate, had borrowed the truck on the night of the robbery. Police later seized the gun used in the robbery, gloves, a tan satchel, a military uniform, and numerous packages of Spice in Chauhan’s room.

Jurors deliberated about an hour Wednesday before finding Chauhan guilty of two counts of aggravated robbery, one for each victim.

Before handing down their sentence that same day, jurors heard evidence that while free on bond in the smoke shop robbery case, Chauhan held up a Benbrook bank at gunpoint.

“This defendant received training to protect and defend our country,” said prosecutor Sam Williams in a news release from the Tarrant County district attorney’s office Friday. “He betrayed that public trust and used that training against the very citizens he took an oath to defend. By their verdict in this trial, the citizens of this community voiced their displeasure with his dishonorable conduct.”

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