By: Najla Alexander
An Elizabeth man admitted participating in a conspiracy to commit multiple armed robberies from August 2018 to February 2019, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger reported today.
According to Federal officials, Jaime Fontanez, 45, of Elizabeth, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler on November 30 to eight counts of an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, five substantive counts of Hobbs Act robbery, and two counts of brandishing a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Authorities say from August 2018 through February 2019, Fontanez conspired with several other individuals to commit 13 armed robberies in the Bronx and New York counties in New York and Union, Middlesex, and Essex counties in New Jersey.
The conspirators targeted convenience and liquor stores, officials say.
After entering the business, one of the conspirators, authorities say, pointed a firearm at the store clerk while another conspirator went behind the counter to steal money from the cash register, according to officials.
On one occasion, officials reported that one of the conspirators discharged a firearm into the liquor store.
The Hobbs Act charges each carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison.
The brandishing of a firearm during a crime of violence carries a maximum potential penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison, which must run consecutively to any other prison term.
Each count also carries a potential $250,000 fine.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 26, 2023.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents with the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.
He also thanked the Elizabeth Police Department, the Rahway Police Department, the Woodbridge Police Department, the Bloomfield Police Department, the Linden Police Department, the Kenilworth Police Department, the Union Police Department, and the New Jersey States Police for their assistance.