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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Kentucky

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Federal Prosecution of La Placita Robbery Concludes with Final Sentencngs

Bowling Green, Kentucky– Two Honduran nationals, Jonny Alexander Reyes-Martinez and Jorge Santos Caballero-Melgar were sentenced on Monday in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green.  Reyes was sentenced to 262 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to commit a series of armed robberies throughout the southeast, including the robbery of La Placita 710 Morgantown Road, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on March 17, 2017, that resulted in the death of one person, J.C.  Also sentenced on Monday was Jorge Santos Caballero-Melgar for his role as the organizer and leader of the group.  Caballero was the only defendant to take his case to trial.  He was convicted by a jury in Bowling Green earlier this year.  Caballero was sentenced to 460 months in prison.   

These sentencings culminated the prosecution of 12 persons who were charged with conspiring to commit a total of 15 armed robberies in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, and North Carolina between December 2016 and September 2017.  Most of the defendants resided in Nashville, Tennessee.  All were present in the United States illegally.   Sentences imposed by Chief Judge Stivers in the case ranged from 48 months to 460 months.  Reyes, who was directly involved in the robbery of La Placita in Bowling Green, was facing a life sentence prior to entry of a guilty plea.  Evidence presented at Caballero’s trial showed that the victim, J.C., interceded and attempted to restrain Reyes inside the store as the robbery concluded and was shot by Reyes during a struggle in close quarters.  Reyes’s guideline sentence of up to 405 months was reduced by Chief Judge Stivers on Monday based on the defendant’s substantial assistance in the prosecution of Caballero.  Reyes testified at Caballero’s trial last spring, along with four other co-conspirators, and was characterized by Judge Stivers as a “key witness” for the government at trial.

The evidence at trial established that Caballero was the organizer and leader of the robbery conspiracy.  Caballero was present for all but one of the 15 charged robberies directing the other co-conspirators from outside the store.  Evidence at trial showed that Caballero identified the stores to be robbed; provided firearms to the others for use during each robbery; and drove co-conspirators to and from robbery locations.  Cell phone tracking evidence presented at trial showed the movement of the co-conspirators from Nashville to various robbery locations and back.   Surveillance video, together with phone records and testimony at trial, established that Caballero on at least one occasion ordered a victim to turn over the cash in the store to the robbers who were inside with her.  After each robbery, Caballero met at another location with co-conspirators and divided the proceeds of the robbery.  Caballero has illegally entered the United States and been removed five times.

“Those responsible for the senseless and heartbreaking loss of life in this case will now rightfully spend decades in prison for their crimes,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett.  “The FBI, the Bowling Green Police Department, the federal and state agencies who provided assistance, and the prosecutors who litigated the cases all worked tirelessly and performed admirably throughout the process to ensure justice was served.”       

“This investigation, leading to the arrest, conviction, and sentencing of Caballero and 11 other members of his robbery crew highlights the value and effectiveness of combining local, state, and federal resources to combat violent criminals,” said Special Agent in Charge Jodi Cohen of the FBI’s Louisville Field Office.  “It is a tragedy that someone died as a result of the defendants’ brazen conduct; however, we hope that these sentences will provide some solace to the victim’s family and serve as a reminder to those who wish to harm the citizens of the Commonwealth that FBI Louisville and its law enforcement partners will find you and hold you accountable.”  

The investigation was led by Special Agents in the FBI’s Bowling Green Resident Agency and the Bowling Green Police Department. The investigation was also assisted by FBI Charlotte; FBI Memphis; DHS/HSI Raleigh; DHS/HSI Bowling Green; Lexington, KY Police Department; Cary, NC Police Department; Clayton, NC Police Department; Snow Hill, NC Police Department; Greene County, NC Sheriff’s Department; Rocky Mount, NC Police Department; Henderson, NC Police Department; Gallatin, TN Police Department; Morristown, TN Police Department; McMinnville, TN Police Department; Metro Nashville Police Department; Clarksville, IN Police Department; Northampton County, VA Sheriff’s Department; and the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marisa J. Ford and Alicia P. Gomez prosecuted the case.

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Updated October 20, 2021