A 30-year-old man who pleaded guilty to molesting two girls inside stores in two separate incidents was sentenced to three and half years in prison Monday.

Christian Mercado-Velez, 30, was also placed on lifetime probation following his release from prison. Mercado-Velez, who was born in Mexico, will be deported after serving his prison sentence and could face additional prison time if he illegally re-enters the country.

In July 2011, a 9-year-old girl told police a man pinned her against a shelf in an aisle of a toy store in the 4500 block of North Oracle Road, according to court documents. The man began rubbing himself against the girl, she told police.

Eight days later a 7-year-old girl reported that a man touched her inappropriately in another store in the 3900 block of North Flowing Wells Road.

Police released information about the man to the media and a few days later a tipster called police.

Mercado-Velez was arrested and indicted on two counts of molestation of child and one count of aggravated assault of a minor, for another incident involving a 9-year-old girl.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of molestation in February.

Mercado-Velez was sentenced by Pima County Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or at 573-4224.

Senior Editor, News, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Az.