Men were sentenced Thursday in Albuquerque federal court


FARMINGTON — Two men in separate cases recently were sentenced to time in federal prison for crimes committed in San Juan County, including a Four Corners man who robbed an Aztec bank.

Paul Fichera, 29, of Durango, Colorado, was sentenced to 12 years and 10 months in prison Thursday in Albuquerque federal court for bank robbery and firearm charges, according to U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Fichera pleaded guilty to robbing the Four Corners Community Bank at 1301 W. Aztec Blvd. on the afternoon of May 11, 2017, according to the criminal complaint.

A man later identified as Fichera entered the bank while wearing black leather gloves, a black mask, black sunglasses while carrying a black bag and a handgun.

Fichera yelled, "Everybody get on the ground" and instructed the teller he had 30 seconds to put $100,000 in a bag. The teller put about $13,000 in the bag, and Fichera left in a silver passenger car.

The complaint states he led law enforcement on a pursuit, eventually stopping near Hesperus, Colorado, and was taken into custody.

During an interview, Fichera told officials he was going to use the money to buy a moving truck and start his own business, according to the complaint.

He stated the Ruger P90 .45 caliber handgun he used in the bank robbery belonged to his girlfriend.

Fichera will have three years of supervised release after completing his prison term.

In a separate case, Melvin Russell, 53, of Fruitland, was sentenced to 19 years and seven months Thursday on an aggravated sexual abuse conviction, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

He was convicted on May 11, following a five-day jury trial which started on May 7.

He was arrested in July 2014 on a criminal complaint accusing him of sexually assaulting a woman around May 19 or May 20, 2014, at his residence in Nenahnezad, according to court documents.

The victim testified Russell became sexually aggressive with her after a friend and the friend's daughter fell asleep on Russell's couch, according to the complaint.

While trying to resist his advances, the victim stated Russell grabbed her around her neck and choked her. Russell then pulled out a samurai-type sword and threatened the woman with it.

The victim stated Russell raped her while choking and striking her.

The victim, the friend and the friend's child left the residence in the morning, then called the police and sought medical treatment.

During a second interview, Russell told officials the sword belonged to him, and he did rape the victim but added he was sorry about what he had done, according to the complaint.

Russell will have 10 years of supervised release after completing his prison sentence and is required to register as a sex offender.

The Farmington FBI office investigated both cases, and the Shiprock office of the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety aided in Russell's case.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at

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