ATLANTA—Three members of a violent robbery crew with ties to the Dominican Republic were sentenced today to serve decades in federal prison without parole by Senior United States District Judge Orinda D. Evans, announced United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia. Jose Reyes, 39; Albert Espinal, 33; and Johann Brito, 32, all of Lawrenceville, Georgia, were convicted by a jury on March 1, 2012, on charges of conspiracy to commit armed robberies, armed robbery, drug trafficking, and using a firearm in connection with those offenses. Two individuals died during two of those robberies.
“These three defendants are extremely dangerous for our community, and consequently, they were sentenced to spend effectively the rest of their lives in prison,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “As members of the Cartier robbery crew, the men engaged in shootouts in public places, tortured victims, and committed violent home invasion robberies during which at least two men were killed. Their criminal gang activity, which included significant drug trafficking, spread throughout other parts of the United States—including New York and North Carolina.”
Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “Today’s sentencing is necessary and just in that it removes a very violent robbery crew from our streets. These individuals demonstrated their penchant for violence and that they would no doubt continue on that path if released. The FBI is proud of the role its agents and task force officers played in bringing these individuals to justice.”
“These men were clearly willing to use any means necessary to further their criminal schemes,” said Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE)-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta. “For the lives they took in their quest for dirty money, and for the acts of torture and abuse they inflicted upon countless others, it is completely appropriate that they will spend between 31 and 70 years behind bars.” Nicholson oversees HSI activities in Georgia and the Carolinas.
Albert Espinal was sentenced to 70 years in prison; Johann Brito was sentenced to 40 years in prison; and Jose Reyes was sentenced to 31 years, eight months in prison. Upon release from prison, each must serve a five-year term of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal criminal justice system.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: Members of the conspiracy came to Georgia in 2008 and 2009 from New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island for the purpose of committing robberies. Defendants Reyes, Espinal, Brito, and other members of the conspiracy were either born in the Dominican Republic or have close ties to the Dominican Republic. Once in Georgia, Reyes, Espinal, and Brito committed numerous armed robberies.
During the early morning hours of May 11, 2009, Espinal, Brito, and other members of the conspiracy kicked down the door of a house used for conducting drug deals located in a subdivision in Duluth. Once inside, they tied up the caretaker of the house and then tied up and shot three other drug customers who later delivered cocaine to the house. After learning that a cocaine transaction was scheduled to take place at the house, defendants and others planned to rob the drug customers. At approximately 10 a.m., Reyes, Espinal, Brito, and others confronted two drug customers outside of the house. Neighbors reported hearing up to 20 gun shots, and one of the drug customers later died from his gunshot wounds.
On April 7, 2009, also during the early morning hours, Espinal, Brito, and two co-conspirators broke into another drug house and then tied up and tortured a victim by cutting off a portion of his ear, pouring hot sauce in his eyes, dunking his head in the bathtub, and pistol-whipping him in an attempt to learn the location of hidden drugs. They then tried to ransom the victim in exchange for 20 kilograms of cocaine. The exchange never went through, however, because the robbers and the drug dealers got into a shootout later that morning at the intersection of Oakland Road and Cruse Road in Lawrenceville, during which one of the robbers was killed.
Another eight defendants await sentencing in this and a related case. Two other defendants, Roberto Rosario and Jean Carlos Ramos, are fugitives.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE)-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Assistant United States Attorneys Kim S. Dammers and Brent Alan Gray prosecuted the case.