Essex County Convicted Felon Admits Involvement in Two Shootings, Possessing Firearm with Extended Magazine, and Possessing Heroin with Intent to Distribute
NEWARK, N.J. – A Passaic County, New Jersey, man was convicted today by a federal jury for his role as the gunman in two armed bank robberies, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
Jose Soto, 52, of Passaic, New Jersey, was convicted of two bank robberies, conspiracy to commit bank robbery, and brandishing a firearm during those robberies following a six-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini.
According to documents in this case and the evidence at trial:
On Feb. 6, 2020, Soto and his conspirator, while wearing face coverings and holding umbrellas, entered the PNC Bank in Passaic. Soto pointed a silver and black handgun at customers and employees and began ordering everyone down on the floor. His conspirator entered the bank and jumped over the teller counter, demanding that the teller turn over all cash in the drawers. Soto and his conspirator took approximately $35,000 from the PNC Bank.
On Feb. 27, 2020, Soto and the same conspirator entered the Valley Bank in Little Falls, New Jersey. Soto again pointed a silver and black gun at customers and employees and his conspirator jumped over the teller counter and began rifling through various drawers. Soto and his conspirator, at gunpoint, forced the bank employees to open the vault, and began retrieving cash from the bank vault. They then forced all employees and customers into the bank vault and fled through the rear door of the Valley Bank. Soto and his conspirator took approximately $45,000 from the Valley Bank.
For each bank robbery charge, Soto faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. For the conspiracy charge, Soto faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. For each count of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a bank robbery, Soto faces a mandatory minimum of seven years in prison, a maximum potential penalty of life imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. Soto’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 23, 2023.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark; the Passaic Police Department, under the direction of Chief Luis A. Guzman; the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik; the Little Falls Police Department, under the direction of Chief Robert A. Thomas III; and the Paterson Police Department, under the direction of Director Jerry Speziale, with the investigation leading to today’s conviction.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emma Spiro and Mark J. Pesce of the Criminal Division in Newark.