US law enforcement agencies have busted a 16-member gang of armed robbers which targeted jewelry stores owned by Indian and Asian Americans in four states across the East Coast.
Disguised in dark clothing, masks, and gloves, armed with a gun, one or more of the gang members used various vehicles, including stolen vehicles, to commit and flee from the robberies, according to a Justice department press release.
According to court documents, between Jan 7, 2022, through Jan 27, 2023, the alleged robbers conspired in the District of Columbia to commit robberies in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida.
The targeted stores included: Yasini Jewelers in E. Falls Church, Virginia; Virani Jewelers in Iselin, New Jersey; Sonia Jewelers & Boutique, in Springfield, Virginia; Paradise Jewelry Store, in Paterson, New Jersey; Baral Jewelers & Gifts, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Sara Emporium Jewelry & Boutique, in Springfield, Virginia; Kishek Jewelers, in Jacksonville, Florida; Chintamanis Inc., in Franklin Park, New Jersey; and Princess Diamonds, in Falls Church, Virginia.
A superseding indictment unsealed on Aug 30 in Washington DC charged 16 alleged members of a violent crime ring that committed multiple armed carjackings, armed robberies, money laundering, and firearms offenses.
Federal law enforcement arrested eight defendants on Aug 30. the remaining defendants were previously arrested.
Charges include conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce, robbery, interference with interstate commerce by robbery, using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, conspiracy to commit carjacking, and conspiracy to engage in monetary transaction in property derived from specified unlawful activity.
Search warrants were also executed resulting in the seizure of multiple guns and approximately $300,000 from a safe in one of the residences.
The superseding indictment also contains a notice of forfeiture and seeks the proceeds of the illegal activities.
The statutory maximum sentence for conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce (known as Hobbs Act) robbery is 20 years.
“This indictment alleges a conspiracy to engage in a violent armed robbery spree involving commercial establishments throughout the Eastern Seaboard,” said US Attorney Matthew M. Graves.
“With an increasing number of robbery schemes that cross state lines, collaborative operations like this one are critical to holding accountable those who threaten the safety of our communities,” he said
“The defendants targeted small businesses along the East Coast, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry from hardworking families,” said Assistant Director in Charge David Sundberg.
“Many of the victim businesses are family owned and operated and lost large sums of inventory,” said FBI-Newark Special Agent in Charge James Dennehy.
“We have a message for criminals out there right now who believe these smash and grab robberies work in their favor because they mistakenly believe no one will hold them accountable.
“That’s not the case here – and it won’t be the case in the future. FBI Newark and our law enforcement partners will make sure if we can charge something federally, we will make that happen.”