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Press Release

Essex County, New Jersey, Man Sentenced To 135 Months In Prison For 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 was sentenced today to 135 months in prison for his participation in the September 2015 armed robbery of a club in Passaic, New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Keontrae Lawrence, a/k/a “Taz,” 29, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo 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. Judge Arleo imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

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.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Arleo sentenced Lawrence to five years of supervised release.

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 was sentenced Oct. 6, 2017, to 150 months in prison. The charges against Cooper are still pending, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito 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 sentencing. 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 March 2, 2018

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 18-081