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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Puerto Rico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 15, 2018

Three More Individuals Charged For The Añasco Armed Robbery

SAN JUAN, P.R. – On March 14, 2018, a federal grand jury returned a superseding eight-count indictment against Benjamin Melendez-Rivera, Ralph Laboy-Santiago, Miguel Cruz-Kuilan, and Joel Laboy-Rosario for conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, interference with commerce by robbery, and related firearms offenses, announced United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. The FBI, the Aguadilla Violent Crimes Task Force of the FBI, and the Police of Puerto Rico’s Bank Robbery Unit are in charge of the investigation.

The superseding indictment alleges that on March 20, 2017, in the District of Puerto Rico, the co-conspirators traveled to a Banco Popular branch in Morovis, Puerto Rico to commit a robbery. The defendants brandished a firearm at an armed courier employed by Econo Supermarket outside of the Banco Popular, and robbed approximately $3,000 in U.S. currency.

On March 23, 2017, the defendants conducted surveillance on a Banco Popular branch in Añasco, in preparation for a robbery. Returning to Añasco on March 30, 2017, Melendez-Rivera took photographs of the Añasco branch. On that same day, two of the co-conspirators robbed and discharged their firearms at a Ranger American armed courier outside of the Banco Popular branch. During the robbery, the armed courier was wounded and two innocent bystanders were killed. The defendants robbed approximately $16,900 in U.S. currency.

The superseding indictment further charges that Melendez-Rivera was found to have taken photographs of another Banco Popular branch located in Puerto Nuevo on October 9, 2017, allegedly in preparation for another robbery.

“Thanks to the joint investigation conducted by the FBI, Aguadilla Task Force officers, and Puerto Rico Police’s Bank Robbery Unit, the members of this alleged armed robbery organization have been apprehended,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We thank our local law enforcement partners for their outstanding work. The U.S. Department of Justice is committed to working actively with local law enforcement to apprehend and bring armed robbery organizations like this one to justice.”

“Today’s arrests by the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) Tactical Operations Unit and FBI SWAT were the result of outstanding detective work by the PRPD Bank Robbery Unit and the FBI Aguadilla and San Juan Offices, with critical assistance provided by the Puerto Rico Department of Housing. Furthermore, FBI Headquarters has advised the United States Attorney General of the essential role played by our PRDP Task Force Officers in solving this and many other dangerous crimes occurring in Puerto Rico,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Leff. “We commend the Puerto Rico authorities for committing these dedicated officers to work alongside us, and together we will never stop investigating crimes of violence until justice is fully accomplished through the apprehension of all those responsible”

Benjamin Melendez-Rivera was charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery; interference with commerce by robbery (two counts); possession, and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (two counts); and as a felon-in-possession (two counts).

Ralph Laboy-Santiago was charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery; interference with commerce by robbery (two counts); possession, and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (two counts); and as a felon-in-possession (two counts). Laboy-Santiago

Miguel Cruz-Kuilan was charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery; interference with commerce by robbery (two counts); possession, and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (two counts); and as a felon-in-possession (three counts).

Joel Laboy-Rosario was charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery; interference with commerce by robbery (two counts); and possession, and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (two counts).

The previous five-count indictment in the case, returned on December 6, 2017, charged only Melendez-Rivera.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Alum is in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed to be innocent until the charges are proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Topic(s): 
Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated March 27, 2018