Howard County Man Sentenced to 40 Years in Federal Prison for His Role in a Murder-For-Hire Conspiracy
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel sentenced Rashaun Onley, age 23, of Washington, D.C., today to 14 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, on federal charges of committing an armed commercial robbery, carjacking, and using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. Onley has been detained since his arrest.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Chief Robert J. Contee III of the Metropolitan Police Department; Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department; Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Chief Don Hayes of the City of Alexandria, Virginia Police Department; Chief Charles “Andy” Penn of the Arlington County, Virginia Police Department; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy; and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy.
According to his guilty plea, in the early morning of February 5, 2021, Onley and a co-defendant entered a convenience store in Silver Spring, Maryland, selected some items from the shelves, and approached the counter. Onley grabbed a convenience store employee, Victim 1, by the shirt, struck Victim 1 in the head, led Victim 1 behind the counter, and forced Victim 1 to his knees. Onley then brandished a black semiautomatic handgun and ordered Victim 1 and Victim 2, another employee, to open the cash register. Victim 2 opened the cash register and Onley and the co-defendant removed the cash from the register and fled. Officers with the Montgomery County Police Department (“MCPD”) recovered video surveillance footage showed Onley and his co-defendant committing the robbery.
Also on February 5, 2021, at approximately 4:57 p.m., in Alexandria, Virginia, three men carjacked at gunpoint a dark gray Volkswagen Tiguan with Pennsylvania registration plates (“Volkswagen”). Victim 3, the driver, reported that he had just parked his vehicle when one suspect told Victim 3 to get out of the vehicle, while a second suspect pointed a black handgun at Victim 3. Victim 3 began to get out of the car but was grabbed by a suspect and pulled away from the vehicle. All three suspects fled in the Volkswagen. Victim 3 reported that his iPhone was still inside the vehicle.
As detailed in Onley’s plea agreement, a little more than one hour later, Onley, his co-defendant, and Co-Conspirator 1 carjacked at gunpoint Victim 4, who was driving a Lexus ES300 (“Lexus”) in Silver Spring. Onley approached Victim 4 first with a gun in his hand and stated, “I’m gonna blow you up, give me your money and keys.” Onley’s co-defendant, who also was armed with a gun, approached Victim 4 and demanded his car keys. Co-Conspirator 1 was driving the Volkswagen. Fearing for his life, Victim 4 handed over his property. Onley’s co-defendant drove the Lexus away, while Onley got into the front passenger seat of the Volkswagen and fled the scene. A short time later the Lexus was located abandoned nearby.
According to the plea agreement, approximately two minutes after the carjacking of the Lexus, Onley and the co-defendant approached Victim 5, who was sitting in a Mercedes ML350 sport utility vehicle (“Mercedes”). Onley ordered Victim 5 to “get out” while he pointed a gun at her. Victim 5 exited in fear for her life, while Onley and his co-defendant took Victim 5’s vehicle and fled the scene. MCPD officers interviewed Victim 5 and obtained surveillance footage relating to the carjacking.
Less than 30 minutes later, Onley and his co-defendant were seen arriving in the Volkswagen on surveillance video capturing the outside of the co-defendant’s residence, an apartment building located in Washington, D.C. They both were wearing the same clothing visible in the surveillance videos of the Silver Spring carjacking of the Mercedes and in the robbery of the convenience store. A short time later, Onley exited the building and stood on the front porch, where he removed a mobile phone from his pocket, smashed the phone on the concrete porch, and threw the phone in the front dirt or lawn area of the building. Law enforcement recovered the smashed phone two days later and confirmed that it was the iPhone belonging to Victim 3 that was left inside of the Volkswagen.
Later that evening, the carjacked Mercedes parked in front of the Volkswagen. Onley and his co-defendant came out of the apartment building, went to the driver’s side of the Mercedes, and spoke with the three occupants of the vehicle. After a few minutes, the three occupants exited the Mercedes, got into the Volkswagen, and drove away. Onley and his co-defendant went back into the apartment building.
That same evening, officers with the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) saw the carjacked Volkswagen traveling in Washington D.C. After a pursuit, the occupants of the Volkswagen, including Co-Conspirator 1, bailed out of the vehicle. MPD located and arrested Co-Conspirator 1. The Maryland license plate from the carjacked Mercedes was also located a short distance away.
On February 17, 2021, the Mercedes was recovered from the street in front of the co-defendant’s apartment building.
Late in the evening of February 26, 2021, the co-defendant and Onley were ‘livestreaming’ and posting on social media about being at a hotel party in Arlington, Virginia. Law enforcement established surveillance on Onley and his co-defendant at the hotel and continued to monitor the co-defendant’s social media account, where they were able to see semiautomatic handguns in the hotel room. MCPD officers apprehended Onley and the co-defendant in the hotel room. Prior to being apprehended, the co-defendant threw a bag from the hotel room window, which law enforcement promptly recovered. The contents of the bag included two loaded firearms and 21 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition.
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. PSN, an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime, is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. 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 Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Montgomery County Police Department, the Prince George’s County Police Department, the City of Alexandria Police Department and the Arlington County, Virginia Police Department for their work in the investigation and thanked the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office for their assistance. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy F. Hagan, who is prosecuting the case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/project-safe-neighborhoods-psnexile and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
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