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Armando Aguiar, 41, of San Jose. (Alameda County Sheriff's Office photo)

SAN LEANDRO -- A San Jose man who police say used a gun to hold employees hostage at his former place of work was free on bail Wednesday despite a prosecutor's attempt to keep him behind bars.

Armando Aguiar, 41, entered Azevedo Electric in the 1900 block of Alvarado Street in San Leandro around 2 p.m. Friday, and held his former co-workers at gunpoint for about 30 minutes, repeatedly threatening to kill them, police said. Eventually, they offered him cash, which he took; he left without hurting anyone. The gun was later determined to be a replica.

Aguiar was found and arrested Monday at his girlfriend's home on Dorchester Avenue in San Leandro after the employees reported the incident to police, court records show.

He posted a $20,000 bail on Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday prosecutors filed multiple charges against him including false imprisonment and brandishing a replica gun. Aguiar appeared in court at the Hayward Hall of Justice later Wednesday and was arraigned with help from a translator.

Aguiar, who speaks Portuguese, said very little in court after Judge Gary Picetti read him his rights.

During the hearing, Prosecutor Eric von Geldern asked the judge to increase Aguiar's bail.

"He held them at gunpoint for a half-hour and repeatedly threatened to kill them," von Geldern said. "He wanted $2,000 from them."

Von Geldern also told the judge the defendant indicated he was using methamphetamines at the time of the incident.

The judge refused, citing a number of reasons including Aguiar's lack of criminal history. The judge did, however, order Aguiar not to have contact with the victims and instructed him to turn over any weapons or firearms he owns to police.

The judge also told Aguiar to attend Narcotics Anonymous three time a week until his case is resolved. If any of the conditions of the $20,000 bail are violated, Picetti said, Aguiar goes straight to jail.

According to court documents, Aguiar worked for Azevedo Electric for five years, was fired about a year ago and wanted money he felt he was owed from the company.

"When he was terminated, there was a dispute over money owed to Aguiar which was never settled," a detective wrote in a probable cause affidavit.

Employees inside the business -- identified as Lucino Cardoso and Claudio Azevedo -- told police they had seen Aguiar place a handgun inside a small blue, canvas case just before he walked into the business, according to a criminal complaint.

Once inside the business, Aguiar held the bag with the gun aloft, pointed it toward one of the victims, and threatened to kill the employees, saying they were responsible for his financial troubles, police said.

Eventually, police said the owner of the business, Lucino Cardoso, offered him $2,000, which he took, then left.

Fearing retaliation, the victims did not immediately contact police. They changed their minds Monday morning and reported the incident, telling police where Aguiar was staying.

Detectives set up a stakeout outside Aguiar's girlfriend's home and arrested him as he tried drive away from the home. Police found a replica handgun while arresting Aguiar, police said.

Aguiar later admitted his involvement in the crime but said he never intended on harming anyone, a probable cause affidavit shows.

At the conclusion of Wednesday's court hearing, the judge left Aguiar with a few final words:

"There's no way of telling whether somebody means what they say when they threaten to kill somebody," Picetti said. "Please do not make me regret this decision."

Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.