Colombian Pleads Guilty in Robbery of $500K in Gems and Jewelry from Traveling Salesman in Pittsburgh’s North Hills
PITTSBURGH - A resident of Bogota, Colombia, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of conspiracy to violate federal robbery laws. The announcement was made by United States Attorney Scott W. Brady, FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones, and Chief Robert T. Amann of the Northern Regional Police Department.
Oscar Javier Rodriguez Roa, 36, of Bogota, Colombia, pleaded guilty to one count before Senior United States District Judge Donetta W. Ambrose.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Roa was a member of an organized South American theft ring that targeted traveling jewelry salespersons in the United States and elsewhere. On May 5, 2013, Roa and his accomplices drove from Lawrenceville, Georgia to Western Pennsylvania in a rented car to set up the heist. On May 8, 2013, in Wexford, Pennsylvania, Roa and his three accomplices accosted a traveling jewelry salesman from New York City as the salesman exited his car in the parking lot of a Wexford jewelry store. Roa smashed the rear driver’s side window of the salesman’s car, reached inside the car, and stole a black shoulder bag containing approximately $500,000 worth of gemstones and jewelry while the other robbers punctured the rear driver’s side tire of the salesman’s car, kept an eye on the salesman, and drove the Nissan Maxima getaway car. Prior to the robbery, the accomplices obscured the Maxima’s license plate using a vanity plate. Witnesses to the robbery followed the Nissan Maxima to a church parking lot. After realizing they had been followed, Roa and his accomplices drove to nearby muffler shop where they abandoned the Nissan Maxima and fled on foot to a nearby CVS pharmacy. CVS pharmacy video surveillance, obtained by law enforcement, showed Oscar Javier Rodriguez Roa and one accomplice entering the store while the two remaining accomplices waited outside. Roa was seen talking on a cell phone as he entered the store, while Roa’s accomplice was seen carrying the black shoulder bag containing the gemstones and jewelry. Forensic analysis revealed Roa’s fingerprints on the front passenger door of the Nissan Maxima and on a video game console found in the trunk of the car. Flight records showed that Roa, who is not a citizen of the United States, fled the United States on May 16, 2013, by boarding a flight in Houston, Texas destined for Bogota, Colombia.
"Thanks to the excellent police work of the Northern Regional Police Department, the FBI and the tenacious efforts of the United States Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, this international criminal has been brought to justice," said U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady. "This prosecution should send a message to would-be international criminals, if you commit crimes against Americans, we will find you and you will be brought to answer for your actions in the United States."
Judge Ambrose scheduled sentencing for August 12, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of not more than 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Charles A. Eberle and Trial Attorney Leshia Lee Dixon of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Northern Regional Police Department conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Oscar Javier Rodriguez Roa. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance with Roa’s extradition from Colombia to Pittsburgh.