Two Albuquerque Men Arraigned on Federal Charges Arising Out of Commercial Armed Robberies and Carjackings
ALBUQUERQUE – Joel Meeks, 19, and Raul Ortega, 20, both of Albuquerque, N.M., were arraigned this morning on an eight-count indictment alleging violations of the Hobbs Act by interfering with a business involved in interstate commerce by robbery, the federal carjacking statute and firearms laws. Both men entered not guilty pleas during this morning’s hearings and are detained pending trial, which has yet to be scheduled.
The indictment alleges that Meeks robbed two Albuquerque businesses in Dec. 2012, and used firearms to perpetrate the robberies. It further alleges that Meeks and Ortega carjacked two vehicles in Jan. 2013, and used firearms to perpetrate the two offenses.
According to the indictment, Meeks robbed a business called “Up in Smoke” at gunpoint on Dec. 6, 2012. Meeks also is charged with robbing a business called “PDQ” at gunpoint on Dec. 7, 2012, and discharging his firearm while committing the offense. Meeks and Ortega are jointly charged with carjacking a Kia Sorento on Jan. 13, 2013 and carjacking a Mitsubishi on Jan. 17, 2013. The two men allegedly brandished firearms while committing the carjackings.
A conviction on each of the two Hobbs Act counts carries a maximum penalty of twenty years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. A conviction on each of the two carjacking counts carries a maximum penalty of fifteen years in prison. The three counts alleging the use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence each carry a mandatory seven-year term of imprisonment to be served consecutive to any sentence imposed on the underlying robbery or carjacking. A conviction on the count alleging the discharge of a firearm that was used and carried during a crime of violence carries a mandatory ten-year term of imprisonment to be served consecutive to any sentence imposed on the underlying robbery.
Meeks and Ortega were both in state custody on state charges arising out of the offenses charged in the federal indictment until they were transferred to federal custody for today’s arraignment hearings.
This case was brought as part of a law enforcement initiative launched in July 2012, by the FBI’s Violent Crimes and Major Offender Squad and the Albuquerque Police Department’s Armed Robbery Unit that targets suspects implicated in commercial armed robberies. This initiative is part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under the worst of the worst anti-violence 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 for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from our communities for as long as possible.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and the Albuquerque Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon K. Stanford.
Charges in indictments are only accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.