16 Suspects Charged in String of East Coast Robberies
The alleged crime ring was said to be targeting jewelry stores owned by Asian Americans.
The crimes and charges were detailed in an indictment unsealed Wednesday, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia.
Eight of the suspects were arrested Wednesday while the others were previously arrested.
According to the indictment, the men conspired between January 7, 2022 and January 27, 2023 in Washington D.C. to commit robberies in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida.
The robberies specifically targeted jewelry stores owned by Asian Americans, according to the Attorney’s Office.
The men would don dark clothing and enter the stores armed. One or more defendants used various vehicles, including stolen vehicles, to then flee the scene.
The men are accused of robbing the following stores.
January 7, 2022: Yasini Jewelers in East Falls Church, Virginia;
June 10, 2022: Virani Jewelers in Iselin, New Jersey;
September 20, 2022: Sonia Jewelers & Boutique, in Springfield, Virginia;
October 25, 2022: Paradise Jewelry Store, in Paterson, New Jersey;
November 10, 2022: Baral Jewelers & Gifts, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania;
November 27, 2022: Sara Emporium Jewelry & Boutique, in Springfield, Virginia;
December 6, 2022: Kishek Jewelers, in Jacksonville, Florida;
December 22, 2022: Chintamanis Inc., in Franklin Park, New Jersey; and;
January 27, 2023: Princess Diamonds, in Falls Church, Virginia.
The group is accused of committing multiple armed carjackings, armed robberies, money laundering, and firearms offenses.
Charges include conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce, also known as Hobbs Act 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.
"This indictment alleges a conspiracy to engage in a violent armed robbery spree involving commercial establishments throughout the Eastern Seaboard,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves.
“One defendant is also charged with conspiracy to commit carjacking as part of the spree, and others are charged with laundering the proceeds from the robberies. 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."
Assistant Director in Charge David Sundberg added, “The defendants targeted small businesses along the East Coast, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry from hardworking families.”
FBI-Newark Special Agent in Charge James Dennehy said, “We allege these suspects took part in take-over style armed robberies meant to terrify and overwhelm store owners and employees.”
“Many of the victim businesses are family-owned-and-operated and lost large sums of inventory. The alleged violent and reckless actions of the subjects are astounding; they gave no thought to the people who could have been seriously injured or even killed.”
“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.”
The superseding indictment also contains a notice of forfeiture and is seeking the proceeds of the illegal activities.
The maximum sentences for the various charges range from 20 years to life in prison.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sitara Witanachchi and Andy Wang of the Violence Reduction and Trafficking Offenses Section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
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