NEWARK, NJ — Three Union County men have been charged with robbing liquor stores in Middlesex, Union and Essex counties at gunpoint in November 2018, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced in a Feb. 21 press release.
Paul Jimenez, 29; Jaime Fontanez, 41; and Vincent Chan-Guillen, 28, all of Elizabeth, are charged by complaint with one count of conspiring to commit Hobbs Act robbery and one count of using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. Jimenez is also charged with five substantive counts of Hobbs Act robbery and Fontanez and Chan-Guillen are charged with four substantive counts of Hobbs Act robbery. Jimenez and Fontanez appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion in Newark federal court on Feb. 20 and were detained; Chan-Guillen is expected to make his initial appearance at a later date.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court, during each of the robberies, one of the defendants allegedly brandished a handgun at the store clerk while another defendant went behind the counter and stole money from the cash register.
During one of the robberies in Essex County, one of the robbers fired a shot as they ran from the store. No one was injured in that incident. That firearm was later found in Chan-Guillen’s possession on Nov. 30, 2018.
The Hobbs Act charges each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. The brandishing of a firearm during a crime of violence carries a maximum potential penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison, which must run consecutively to any other prison term. The discharging of a firearm during a crime of violence carries a maximum potential penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, which must run consecutively to any other prison term. Each count also carries a potential $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI with the investigation leading to the arrests. He also thanked N.J. State Police and the police departments of Elizabeth, Rahway, Woodbridge, Bloomfield, Linden, Kenilworth and Union.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until found guilty in a court of law.