Albuquerque Felon Sentenced to 200 Months for Conviction on Federal Armed Robbery, Carjacking and Firearms Charges
Prosecution Brought under Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative
ALBUQUERQUE – Virgal Malott, 23, of Albuquerque, N.M., was sentenced late yesterday afternoon in federal court to 200 months (16.6 years) of imprisonment for his conviction on armed robbery of a commercial business, carjacking and firearms charges. Malott will be on supervised release for three years after completing his prison sentence. The sentence was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney, Special Agent in Charge John J. Durastanti, Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Chief of Police Michael Geier of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
Malott was prosecuted under a federal anti-violence initiative that targets the “worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders primarily based on their prior criminal convictions for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.
“Through this initiative, the federal law enforcement community is working with the Albuquerque Police Department to make Albuquerque a safer place to live, work and raise families by protecting them from violent, repeat offenders like Virgal Malott,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tierney.
“Our goal is simple, to put violent criminals such as Malott behind bars and off our streets,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Durastanti. “I wish to commend our law enforcement partners and the leadership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their prosecution of this violent felon.”
“It’s important that we use all available resources to target the most violent, repeat offenders, and put an end to their criminal activity,” APD Chief Geier said. “Albuquerque’s businesses and neighborhoods are safer with these offenders behind bars.”
On Feb. 14, 2015, APD officers arrested Malott on outstanding state felony warrants. Following Malott’s arrest, APD executed a state search warrant at Malott’s residence as part of its ongoing investigation into a series of armed robberies of Albuquerque-area businesses. During the search, APD found a loaded firearm, which provided the basis for a federal criminal complaint charging Malott with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition that was filed by ATF on Feb. 18, 2015. In June 2015, Malott was charged in an 11-count indictment with violating the Hobbs Act by robbing seven businesses engaged in interstate commerce, carjacking, using and brandishing a firearm during crimes of violence, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The indictment alleged that Malott committed the crimes in Bernalillo County, N.M., from Dec. 2014 to Jan. 2015.
The indictment was superseded in Aug. 2015, to add two additional defendants, Gabriel Sanchez, 28, and Paul Lujan, 22, both of Albuquerque, and two more charges. The superseding indictment charged the three men with conspiring to violate the Hobbs Act by robbing businesses engaged in interstate commerce in Jan. 2015, the armed robbery of five Albuquerque-area businesses, and with using and brandishing firearms during crimes of violence. It also charged Malott alone with the armed robbery of two additional Albuquerque-area businesses, carjacking, and with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The superseding indictment alleged that the three men committed the crimes charged in Bernalillo County between Dec. 2014 and Jan. 2015.
Aug. 17, 2017, Malott entered a guilty plea to three counts of the superseding indictment charging him with the armed robbery of a business engaged in interstate commerce, carjacking, and using and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. In entering the guilty plea, Malott admitted robbing a title loan business located in Albuquerque on Dec. 22, 2014. Malott acknowledged that he was armed when he committed the robbery. He also admitted pointing the firearm at the business’s three employees and that he threatened to kill the employees. Malott admitted committing a carjacking on Jan. 19, 2015, by pointing a firearm at an individual who was at an Albuquerque convenience store and demanding the individual’s wallet and keys. Malott fled from the scene in the individual’s vehicle.
Lujan was arrested on Dec. 3, 2015, after he was transferred from state custody into federal custody. On Aug. 15, 2017, Lujan pled guilty to a felony information charging him with using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. In entering the guilty plea, Lujan admitted that on June 30, 2015, he acted as the getaway driver during the armed robbery of the Loan Max Title Loan in Albuquerque. Lujan further admitted that he discarded a firearm while running from the police following the armed robbery. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Lujan will be sentenced to 60 months in federal prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Lujan remains in federal custody pending his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2018.
Sanchez was arrested on Dec. 31, 2015. On Oct. 26, 2017, Sanchez entered a guilty plea to Count 12 of the superseding indictment, charging him with using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. In entering the guilty plea, Sanchez admitted that on Jan. 30, 2015, he carried and brandished a firearm during the armed robbery of the Title Max Loans at 3900 San Mateo Blvd. NE in Albuquerque. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Sanchez will be sentenced to seven years of imprisonment followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Sanchez remains in federal custody pending his sentencing hearing, which his scheduled for March 29, 2018.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of ATF and by APD, with assistance from the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rumaldo A. Armijo and David M. Walsh are prosecuting the case.