Worcester Man Sentenced for Robbery and Drug Trafficking Conspiracies
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
BOSTON – A Worcester man has been sentenced in federal court in Worcester for conspiracy to commit a robbery and distribute over 500 grams of cocaine.
Junior a/k/a “Junito” Melendez, 42, was sentenced on March 17, 2023 by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman to 156 months in prison followed by eight years of supervised release. In March 2022, Melendez was convicted after trial of conspiracy to distribute over 500 grams of cocaine. On May 17, 2022, Melendez pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit a Hobbs Act robbery.
In March 2019, law enforcement intercepted a series of calls revealing that Melendez and three other Worcester men – Grace Katana, Keith Johnson and Shaun Walker – were organizing a robbery.
On March 25, 2019, the four men were tracked as they drove over 60 miles in two cars from Worcester to the robbery target in Rockland, specifically, the home of a seller of glass marijuana smoking devices. Melendez and Katana went to a nearby hardware store and purchased a crowbar, razor blades and an 8-inch screwdriver, while Johnson and Walker waited in a parked car outside the store. Law enforcement intervened and seized a loaded .380 caliber firearm from the car occupied by Johnson and Walker, who were arrested. Melendez and Katana were released from the scene.
Intercepted communications following the robbery confirmed that Melendez was conspiring with at least five other men – including Juan Rodriguez, Antoine Mack, Kevin Jean, Angel Cordova and Carlos Richards – to buy significant quantities of powder cocaine, convert some of that powder cocaine into crack cocaine and distribute powder and crack cocaine in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. From March 2019 through June 2019, investigators identified over four kilograms of cocaine that Melendez either purchased or sold, including over 300 grams of cocaine that was seized in New Hampshire on May 25, 2019.
All three of Melendez’s co-defendants in the robbery conspiracy have been convicted. Katana was convicted after jury trial and sentenced to 64 months in prison. Walker pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison. Keith Johnson pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
As to Melendez’s co-defendants in the drug trafficking conspiracy, Juan Rodriguez and Kevin Jean were convicted after a jury trial and sentenced to 52 months and 40 months in prison, respectively. Antoine Mack pleaded guilty and was sentenced 54 months in prison. Angel Cordova pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Carlos Richards remains a fugitive.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; James M. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, Boston Field Division; and Worcester Police Chief Steven M. Sargent made the announcement today. Valuable was provided by Massachusetts State Police, New Hampshire State Police, Shrewsbury Police and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Greg A. Friedholm, Kristen M. Noto and Lauren A. Graber of Rollins’ Criminal Division prosecuted the cases.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Updated March 21, 2023