Two Plead Guilty To Robbing An Armored Truck At A Gas Station
Tampa, FL – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that James Battle, Jr. (29, Palm Harbor) and Carlos Keanu Smith (28, Largo) have pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to the robbery. Each faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the robbery offenses and a minimum mandatory sentence of 7 years, up to life, for brandishing the firearm. Battle also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act Robbery, which involves a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. Smith is scheduled to be sentenced on March 20, 2024, and Battle is scheduled to be sentenced on May 2, 2024.
According to court documents, on the morning of June 9, 2023, Battle and Smith met for the purposes of robbing an armored truck. They followed the armored truck along its route from Pinellas County to eastern Hillsborough County before eventually reaching a gas station in Ellenton. Florida Department of Transportation toll records show Battle’s vehicle following seconds behind the targeted armored truck that morning. Surveillance video showed the vehicle also following the armored truck to other locations before conducting the robbery at the gas station in Ellenton when the driver returned to his vehicle. Battle and Smith approached the victim with pistols pointed at him, forcing him to the ground. They stole more than $150,000 from the armored truck.
In connection with the same armored truck robbery, Jorge Serrano Espinoza (19, Clearwater), was also recently charged with Hobbs Act Robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, and aiding and abetting others who brandished firearms during the robbery.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael R. Kenneth. The forfeiture is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney James A. Muench.
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.