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Man Pleads Not Guilty to Robbing Day Laborers at Knifepoint

VISTA, Calif. (AP) -- A man pleaded not guilty Thursday to robbing day laborers at knifepoint after picking them up by posing as a prospective employer.

Thomas Graham is suspected of being the ringleader of a small group that has been targeting day laborers since early June, according to prosecutors. He was charged with participating in four robberies since July.

About 40 possible victims have come forward, said San Diego sheriff's Sgt. Art Wager.

All of the men were picked up at worker gathering spots like home-improvement centers and shopping malls in northern San Diego County under the pretense of being hired as day laborers, authorities say. They were then driven to remote areas and robbed.

One man's hand was cut after he tried to resist, but none of the alleged victims were seriously injured, Wager said. He would not disclose how much money the robbers made off with out of concerns that day laborers would become attractive targets for other would-be robbers.

Graham, 32, was charged with 14 counts of robbery. He was ordered held in lieu of $500,000 bond. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

The case was assigned to the county public defender. A message left with the office regarding Graham's case was not immediately returned.

Two other people have been arrested on suspicion of being drivers and lookouts for the group, and investigators are seeking a fourth possible suspect, Wager said.

One man, Kevin Anderson, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to six counts of robbery in connection with two separate Aug. 9 holdups. Arraignment was postponed until Friday for a third defendant in the case.

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