Edwin Alberto Johnson Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on May 22, 2012, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, EDWIN ALBERTO JOHNSON, a 19-year-old resident of Billings, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery affecting commerce and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. Sentencing has been set for August 22, 2012. He is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia K. Hurd, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
Undercover Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents met JOHNSON in 2011.
On April 29, 2011, an individual referred to hereafter as "XX," JOHNSON, and a third person acted as paid "muscle" during what they believed was an illicit firearms transaction for the undercover agents. Each were paid $100 for their services. All three indicated they were "strapped" or armed during the transaction.
JOHNSON contacted an undercover agent (UC1) in May 2011, and asked if the undercover agent could use some assistance, alluding to the previous muscle deal. UC1 said he did not have any work for JOHNSON at the time, but he would contact him if he did. The two continued to have contact about possible work in the future. In August 2011, JOHNSON texted UC1, saying that JOHNSON had his "danse krew" together if UC1 needed him, referencing a possible home invasion or muscle crew.
Pursuant to phone conversations and texts, "XX," JOHNSON, and another person and the undercover agents met on November 7, 2011, at the location in Billings. At the meeting, "XX", JOHNSON, and the other person discussed plans for committing an armed robbery to occur at a location where a friend of the undercover agents (UC3) would be called to pick up cocaine. UC3 would be getting bricks or kilos of cocaine, and the rest of the approximately 50 or more kilo load would be robbed by "XX" and his crew, including JOHNSON. "XX," JOHNSON, and the third party all stated that they were willing and capable of executing the robbery. The third man discussed his robbery technique in similar situations and JOHNSON laughed and nodded in the affirmative. "XX" discussed killing UC3, indicating that there was a willingness to kill in order to prevent being caught or being identified as the shooter. JOHNSON voiced no disagreement with that plan. "XX," JOHNSON, and the third party acted as "muscle" for what they believed was an illicit firearms transaction with the undercover agents. They were each paid for their participation. "XX" was armed with a Hipoint, .45 caliber pistol that he showed to the undercover agent and UC1 handled. Both undercover agents observed that JOHNSON was also armed with a small chrome handgun tucked in his waistband hidden by his shirt. The third person was unarmed.
The group agreed to meet again with the undercover agents and UC3 about the robbery.
XX" and the undercover agents met again on November 16, 2011, at the same location in Billings. "XX" had another individual referred to here as "ZZ," JOHNSON, and an unknown black male with him as part of his crew. "XX," "ZZ", JOHNSON, and the unknown man were introduced to UC3 who was purporting to be a disgruntled drug courier. UC3 advised them that on past occasions, UC3 had observed between 50 and 70 kilograms of cocaine at the residences used by this drug trafficking organization to store narcotics. Furthermore, UC3 informed "XX," "ZZ," JOHNSON, and the unknown man that on such occasions, three individuals have been present and have been observed with firearms during the transfer of cocaine. UC3 asked JOHNSON if he and the other man were "cool" since they had been quiet during the meeting. JOHNSON nodded his head and "XX" said that they would not be there if they weren't cool. There was more discussion of killing people at the stash house, and JOHNSON did not object at any time. All parties were given multiple opportunities to opt out of their plans. UC3 said he did not want to make anyone do something they did not want to do. The meeting was terminated upon an agreement by all parties present to meet again on an unspecific date.
On November 18, 2011, "XX" met with the undercover agents at the same location in Billings. "XX" sold the undercover agents a rifle that he said he'd just acquired in a trade for "product." "XX" bragged about his new shoes, reporting that he and JOHNSON had just "hit" a house for narcotics and he had purchased the shoes as a result. JOHNSON had earlier sent a photograph of that rifle to UC1 on behalf of "XX," as "XX's" phone was not working.
On November 24, 2011, "XX" was arrested by the Billings Police Department on an outstanding warrant. In addition, he had a small amount of methamphetamine on his person and thus he was no longer part of the crew. JOHNSON was with "XX" when he was arrested.
On November 25, JOHNSON told UC1 that "XX" had been arrested. In that call, JOHNSON told UC1 about the arrest and how "XX" and JOHNSON had been armed and managed to hide four firearms in the bushes during that contact. On November 26, JOHNSON contacted UC1 to notify him of his new phone number. On November 28, JOHNSON reported to UC1 that he had left town with a female, but that he was coming back. UC1 told him to take his time, and they'd meet within the next several days. On November 29, JOHNSON contacted UC1 and said that he had another person on his crew that he wanted to introduce to UC1. The two made arrangements to meet.
On November 29, UC1 picked JOHNSON and the new person up on the west end of Billings. JOHNSON recounted in detail how "XX" was arrested, that JOHNSON had hid the guns and how he still had guns, and detailed the house that "XX" and JOHNSON had "hit" in the last weeks. UC1 asked if JOHNSON still wanted some work, but that he wasn't going to give him any details. UC1 asked the other man if he had done anything before, and the other man replied that he had been running the streets of Las Vegas since age 14 and that he was now 23. He reported spending time in jail in both Las Vegas and Billings. The three agreed to meet at another time if there was work, and the other man texted UC1 his phone number. Late in the evening on November 29, UC1 texted JOHNSON and said he would call on November 30 and give him information.
On November 30, JOHNSON texted back and acknowledged UC1's texts. UC1 texted JOHNSON at approximately 10:33 a.m., and the two agreed to meet shortly. JOHNSON set up the meet location, and arrived on time. UC1 and UC3 picked up JOHNSON and the two detailed a possible robbery opportunity of drug proceeds. JOHNSON indicated his enthusiasm to be the crew to rob the courier and indicated that he would get the other man to help. The meet ended with an agreement for JOHNSON to contact UC1 if he wanted to do the robbery.
Within minutes, JOHNSON texted UC1 and asked what the "cut" was, and said he needed enough money for him, the other man, and a driver. He said that other than the details of the split, the robbery was a go. In another text, JOHNSON asked UC1 to take the guns that JOHNSON and crew would use in the robbery so they would not be caught with them.
Undercover agents met at the same location in Billings later on November 30, 2011. JOHNSON and the other man arrived at the location at approximately 12:42 p.m. Both men were armed, JOHNSON with a .45 Hi point caliber pistol that he showed to UC1 and the other man with a .40 caliber Springfield pistol that he showed to UC1; UC1 handled both guns. UC1 commented about how big the guns were and JOHNSON replied that UC1 had said that the courier was a "big dude." JOHNSON asked UC1, "Where don't you want blood shed inside here," indicating to the inside of the room. UC1 said "do you think he's going to bleed a lot," and the other man replied, "with these.... yeah," referring to the guns the two carried. The two discussed their plan to ditch the car they came in and asked UC1 to ditch the firearms and said they were headed out of state. The other man twice asked UC1 if he had any gloves he could borrow before the robbery. UC1 asked the other man several times if he knew what was going on and if he was good with the deal and the other man replied that he was. UC1 left the room and JOHNSON and the other man were arrested by ATF agents.
During an interview, JOHNSON was told that agents wanted to talk to him about the robbery and his previous robbery discussions with "XX." JOHNSON spontaneously said he and "XX" were going to do a home invasion but that "XX" got arrested. JOHNSON said that when this second deal came along, he wanted to do the robbery so he could get money to get "XX" out of jail and leave town.
JOHNSON faces possible penalties of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release. In addition, JOHNSON faces an additional mandatory five years to life imprisonment, consecutive to any other sentence, for possession of a firearm during a crime of violence.
The investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.