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Press Release

Essex County, New Jersey, Man Pleads Guilty To Armed Robbery Of Passaic, New Jersey, Club

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A South Orange, New Jersey, man today admitted his participation in the September 2015 armed robbery of a club in Passaic, New Jersey, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Keontrae Lawrence, a/k/a “Taz,” 29, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark federal court to an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.

According to the indictment and other documents filed in this case:

On Sept. 6, 2015, Lawrence and others agreed to rob a club in Passaic at gunpoint. During his plea hearing, Lawrence admitted that he knowingly and willfully participated in the robbery and that he and another conspirator brandished a firearm and threatened to use violence against a club employee. He also admitted that he and the other conspirator took $26,084 in cash from the club before fleeing in a getaway car.

The Hobbs Act conspiracy charge carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss from the offense. The count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence carries a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison and that sentence must be consecutive to any other sentence imposed. Lawrence’s sentencing is set for Jan. 5, 2018.

Lawrence was originally charged with Jimmy Cooper, a/k/a “Flip,” 32, of Irvington, New Jersey, and Shaheed Blamahsah, a/k/a “Aboo,” 30, of East Orange, New Jersey, in November 2016. Cooper and Lawrence were later indicted by a federal grand jury on March 24, 2017, for their roles in the robbery.

Blamahsah pleaded guilty to his role in the robbery and awaits sentencing. The charges against Cooper are still pending, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, and members of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, the Passaic Police Department, and the Newark Police Division for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine K. Lou of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Newark.

Defense counsel: John A. Azzarello Esq., Morristown, New Jersey


Updated September 7, 2017

Press Release Number: 17-332