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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 7, 2019

North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to the Armed Robberies of Armored Vehicles in Maryland and North Carolina

New York Man Previously Pleaded Guilty to the Maryland Robbery

Baltimore, Maryland – Orneth South, age 49, of Charlotte, North Carolina, pleaded guilty late on February 6, 2019, to robberies of two armored vehicles – one in Maryland on January 22, 2018, and one in North Carolina on February 9, 2015.  South has a 2007 armed robbery conviction in the Eastern District of New York.

The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina R. Andrew Murray; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan.

According to his guilty plea, on January 22, 2018, South and his co-defendants approached the driver of the armored vehicle as he was removing cash cassettes from an ATM machine at a credit union on Mt. Hebron Road in Salisbury, Maryland.  Co-defendant Michael Watts placed a gun to the driver’s head, and disarmed him of his service weapon.  Watts then grabbed the driver by the hair and order him to open the door of the armored vehicle.  After the driver opened the door, South and another co-defendant removed several bags of money from the vehicle, as well as ATM cassettes filled with cash.  Watts then forced the driver into the vehicle, where he used zip ties to secure the driver’s hands.  The robbers then fled with the money, stealing a total of $1,324,288.  The robbers went to the co-defendant’s residence in nearby Princess Anne and divided the stolen money.

On April 20, 1018, South was arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, on a warrant issued as a result of the robbery.  South agreed to talk to investigators and confessed to the robbery on January 22, 2018.

On January 31, 2019, co-defendant Michael Watts, a/k/a “Turtle,” age 42, of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty to his role in the robbery.  Watts was arrested on May 18, 2018, in Queens, New York on a warrant issued as a result of the robbery.  At the time of his arrest, Watts was wearing approximately $70,000 in jewelry, including a custom turtle pendant, which was purchased with the proceeds of the armored vehicle robbery.  Watts also admitted using his portion of the stolen money to purchase a Mercedes S430 automobile, clothes, two tombstones, and to pay off bills and rent.

At the time of his arrest, South also admitted his involvement in a separate armored vehicle robbery in North Carolina on February 9, 2015.  In that robbery, South and two accomplices pointed a semi-automatic handgun at the guard, stole his handgun and $120,694.25 that had just been retrieved from a nearby restaurant and was in a bag slung over the guard’s shoulder.

As part of their plea agreements, the defendants will be required to pay restitution in the full amount of the loss, which is at least $1,324,288.

South and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement, South will be sentenced to 20 years in prison.  U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for Watts on May 1, 2019 and for South on May 8, 2019, both at 3:00 p.m.

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 make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

United States Attorneys Robert K. Hur and R. Andrew Murray commended the FBI’s field offices in Baltimore and Charlotte, the Salisbury Police Department, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur and Mr. Murray thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys P. Michael Cunningham and Paul A. Riley, who are prosecuting the Maryland case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lambert F. Guinn, who handled the North Carolina case.

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Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Marcia Murphy (410) 209-4854
Updated February 7, 2019