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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 3, 2022

Three Miami Men Found Guilty of Pawn Shop Robbery Spree and Murder

MIAMI—Three Miami men have been found guilty by a Fort Lauderdale jury on all counts of a 21-count indictment—including robbery and murder.

Jonathan Cruz (“Cruz”), 36, Eric Ortiz Melendez (“Ortiz Melendez”), 28, and Jorge Aponte Figueroa (“Aponte Figueroa”), 25, were charged with conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robberies and the actual carrying out of committing Hobbs Act robberies of nine pawn shops in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties. The men brandished and discharged firearms in furtherance of those robberies and murdered a pawn shop customer in Little Havana. Additionally, Cruz was found guilty of being a felon in possession of ammunition.

According to trial evidence, beginning in October 2016, Cruz, Ortiz Melendez, and Aponte Figueroa, along with their five previously convicted co-conspirators, agreed to commit armed robberies of pawn shops throughout South Florida in order to obtain jewelry to illicitly sell. Cruz organized and directed the teams of robbers after scouting the desired locations. Cruz provided the guns and tools needed for the robberies.

The men would travel from Cruz’s home, rob the stores, then return to Cruz’s place. Cruz would then sell the stolen jewelry to an unknown person and give each defendant his cut of the profits. Trial evidence also showed that during robberies in Pembroke Park, West Park, and Miami, the robberies resulted in multiple shootings—one of which resulted in the murder of an elderly pawn shop customer in Little Havana.

The robbery spree began to unravel once three of the defendants were caught during a high-speed chase by the Hialeah Police Department after an armed robbery in that city. According to evidence, the remaining members of the group were planning their next heist in Miami Gardens by the time Cruz was arrested.

Sentencing for all three has been set for February 9, 2023. A]ponte Figueroa also was convicted after trial in March of 2022 of carjacking and murder. The sentencing in that matter has been set for January 4, 2023.

Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and acting Special Agent in Charge Robert M. Dewitt, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

FBI, Miami Field Office, investigated the case with assistance from Broward County Sheriff’s Office; the Miami-Dade Police Department; the City of Miami Police Department; the Hialeah Police Department; the City of Hollywood Police Department; the City of Miami Gardens Police Department; the City of Palm Springs Police Department; and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alejandra L. López and Jodi Anton. 

Anyone with information related to possible gun crimes is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.

You may find a copy of this press release (and any updates) on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov under case number 17-cr-20487.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Firearms Offenses
Contact: 
Public Affairs Unit U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Florida USAFLS.News@usdoj.gov
Updated November 3, 2022