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Press Release

Feds Charge Over A Dozen Defendants With 15 Violent Robberies In Kentucky, Tennessee, And Other States That Targeted Small Businesses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Kentucky
Five of the defendants face charges associated with murder at Bowling Green grocery store

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – United States Attorney Russell M. Coleman announced the addition of eight co-defendants charged by a federal grand jury in connection to the violent robberies of 15 commercial businesses located in North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, and Kentucky; including La Placita market, located in Warren County, Kentucky, where five previous co-defendants were charged in the shooting death of a Bowling Green resident.

Thirteen defendants are charged in a seven count superseding indictment unsealed on Tuesday March 5, 2019.

“These defendants are off the street because of outstanding work by the FBI and the Bowling Green Police Department,” stated U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman. “Our families and our Commonwealth are well-served by both.” 

The superseding indictment charges all 13 defendants with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery – targeting primarily Hispanic owned convenience stores and markets in the four states. May of the defendants resided in Nashville, Tennessee where they allegedly identified businesses to rob, and organized plans to travel to the targeted businesses.

The defendants include:

  • Jorge Santos Caballero-Melgar, age 34, from Nashville, TN
  • Jonny Alexander Reyes-Martinez, age  29, from Nashville, TN
  • Jose Adan Mejia Varela, age 31, from Nashville, TN
  • Lillian Yamileth Duron, age 24, from Nashville, TN
  • Estrellita Soto, age 35, from Nashville, TN
  • Elmer Manuel Ordonez Sanchez, age 25, from Nashville, TN
  • Elvin Fernando Lopez Sanchez, age 26, from Nashville, TN
  • Javier Alexis Mejia Varela, age 27, from Nashville, TN
  • Brandon Michael Maldonado-Caro, age 25, from Nashville, TN
  • Alex Antonio Maldonado-Rodriguez, age 34, from Nashville, TN
  • Junior Esteban Bueso, age 39, from Nashville, TN
  • Jose Javier Cedillo-Sales, age 28, from Nashville, TN
  • Jamie Cedillo-Sales, age 23, from Snow Hill, NC


According to the superseding indictment, the defendants planned and robbed businesses, including: Beat the Clock Tax Service in Lexington, Kentucky, taking approximately $67,000 in cash; La Despensa in Clarksville, Indiana, taking around $7,000 in cash; Lesly Jewelry and Perfume in Nashville, Tennessee taking approximately $200,000 in cash and jewelry; La Regia in Rocky Mount, North Carolina taking approximately $25,000 in cash; La Placita in Bowling Green, Kentucky taking about $23,500 in cash. Defendants robbed multiple other businesses which can be found listed in the indictment. The charge carries a penalty of no more than 20 years in federal prison. There is no parole in the federal system.

Eleven of the defendants (Caballero-Melgar, Reyes-Martinez, Jose Varela, Elmer Sanchez, Elvin Sanchez, Javier Varela, Maldonado-Caro, Maldonado-Rodriguez, Bueso, Jose Cedillo-Sales, Jaime Cedillo-Sales) are charged with carrying or possessing a firearm during a crime of violence; the charge carries a penalty of no more than 20 years imprisonment.

The five original defendants (Caballero-Melgar, Reyes-Martinez, Jose Varela, Duron, and Soto) are charged in the indictment with interference of commerce by robbery for the March 17, 2017, robbery of La Placita in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The charge carries a term of imprisonment of no more than 20 years.

The Grand Jury further charged Caballero-Melgar, Reyes-Martinez, and Jose Varela with murder through the use of a firearm during a crime of violence for the death of J.C. during the robbery of La Placita in Warren County; the charge carries a maximum penalty of death or a term of life in prison.

Caballero-Melgar faces an additional charge of illegal entry after deportation. Reyes-Martinez and Jose Varela are also charged with being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Marisa Ford and Alicia Gomez. The case is being investigated by the Bowling Green Police Department and the FBI with assistance from the Warren County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office; Northampton County, VA Sheriff’s Office; Metro Nashville, TN Police Department; Rocky Mount, NC Police Department; Clayton, NC Police Department; Cary, NC Police Department; Henderson, NC Police Department; Snow Hill, NC Police Department; Chatham County, NC Sheriff’s Department; Department of Homeland Security; and United States Marshals. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Weiser and Jo Lawless also assisted in the investigation.



The indictment of a person by a Grand Jury is an accusation only and that person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Updated March 6, 2019

Violent Crime