Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Commercial Armed Robbery, Firearms and Carjacking Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – Joel Meeks, 20, of Albuquerque, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning to violating the Hobbs Act by interfering with a business involved in interstate commerce by robbery and the federal carjacking and firearms laws. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Meeks will be sentenced to prison for 20 to 25 years followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
Meeks and his co-defendant Raul Ortega, 21, also of Albuquerque, were arrested in April 2013, on an eight-count indictment charging the pair with offenses stemming from a series of armed robberies of commercial businesses and home invasions, including armed robbery and carjacking, occurring in Bernalillo County, N.M., from Dec. 6, 2012 to Jan. 17, 2013.
According to the indictment, Meeks robbed a business called “Up in Smoke” at gunpoint on Dec. 6, 2012. Meeks also was charged with robbing a business called “PDQ” at gunpoint on Dec. 7, 2012, and with discharging his firearm while committing the offense. Meeks and Ortega were jointly charged with committing carjackings on Jan. 13, 2013 and Jan. 17, 2013. The two men allegedly brandished firearms while committing the carjackings.
Today, Meeks pled guilty to Counts 3 and 4 of the indictment, which charged him with robbing the PDQ store on Dec. 7, 2012 and with discharging a firearm while robbing the store. In his plea agreement, Meeks admitted robbing the PDQ store by pointing a pistol at the store clerk and demanding cash. Meeks discharged the pistol in the direction of the store clerk as he fled from the store.
Meeks also pled guilty to Count 5, which charged him with the Jan. 13, 2013 carjacking, and admitted that Ortega and he forcibly entered a home and robbed the homeowner of his credit cards, identification and other objects. Meeks and Ortega assaulted the homeowner to obtain the PIN number for his ATM car, his car keys and his car. They also threatened to harm the homeowner and his family if he contacted the police, and left him face-down in a bathtub full of water to facilitate their escape.
In entering his guilty plea to Count 7, charging him with the Jan. 17, 2013 carjacking, Meeks admitted that Ortega and he forcibly entered another home by knocking the homeowner down, beating him and tying him up when the homeowner answered the door. Meeks and Ortega robbed the homeowner of his credit cards, ATM card and other items, and forced the homeowner to provide the PIN number for his ATM card. Meeks and Ortega also robbed the homeowner of his car keys and car, and threatened to kill him if he screamed or called the police.
Meeks remains in custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
On Feb. 19, 2014, Ortega entered guilty pleas to Counts 5 and 7 of the indictment, which charged him with the Jan 13, 2013 and Jan. 27, 2013 carjackings. Ortega also pled guilty to Count 6, which charged him with using a firearm during the Jan 13, 2013 carjacking. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Ortega will be sentenced to prison for 12 to 20 years followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. His sentencing hearing also has not been scheduled.
This case was brought as part of a law enforcement initiative launched in July 2012, by the FBI’s Violent Crimes and Major Offender Squad and the Albuquerque Police Department’s Armed Robbery Unit that targets suspects implicated in commercial armed robberies. This initiative is part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under the worst of the worst anti-violence initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from our communities for as long as possible.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and the Albuquerque Police Department, with assistance from the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon K. Stanford.