This past week a 23-year old man from Baltimore was sentenced to 13 years in prison for his role in a brazen gun store robbery that left one victim locked in a vault and others fearing for their lives. Four other co-defendants had already been sentenced at the U.S. District court in Baltimore, including the principal planner who received 20 years for armed commercial robbery. The fifth and final sentencing hearing closes a case that federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors had been working on since August of 2016.
According to the plea agreement the five co-defendants targeted an independently owned firearms and bait and tackle store in the Dundalk area of Baltimore County. The principal planner drove his four cohorts to the store in a stolen pickup truck. The defendant and another co-defendant then entered the store brandishing their own firearms and bound one of the employees with zip-ties while making the other employee empty the cash register at gunpoint. Two other co-defendants then entered the store while the planner backed the stolen pickup to the front door of the shop. The four men then proceeded to load 37 firearms into duffel bags and then ran to the truck, but not before shoving one employee into a vault and locking her inside. Three assault rifles were included in the 37, along with a silencer and cash.
After fleeing to Baltimore the five co-defendants divided up the cash and guns and went their separate ways. The FBI, ATF and Baltimore County Police Department all went to work immediately on the case, and their investigation resulted in numerous search warrants that yielded evidence of the robbery. Video surveillance showed that the 23-year old defendant left earbuds inside the store, and also handled a shotgun that he did not ultimately steal. Law enforcement was able to recover a fingerprint from the shotgun that led to a database match, which in turn provided probable cause for a search warrant. Law enforcement also could have recovered DNA from the earbuds used in the robbery in their investigation. A search of this defendant’s home produced numerous firearms from the store with the tags still attached, and also the loaded pistol that the defendant used in the robbery. Additionally, law enforcement recovered evidence that the defendant committed other robberies just weeks before hitting the Dundalk shop. The defendant likely avoided prosecution in these cases by striking a plea deal with the government.
While armed robbery cases are commonly prosecuted in state court it is not surprising that the feds stepped in and took control of this particular case. The gun store was federally licensed, which makes it a similar situation as the robbery of a federally insured bank. Even without the licensing component the feds would have authority to investigate and prosecute this felony firearms case, as they have done and continue to frequently do with Baltimore City cases. Federal sentencing guidelines are harsher than state guidelines, though based on the facts of this case the defendants may not of fared any better in Towson. Two of the other defendants received 17-year prison sentences while another received 9.5 years. After completion of his 13 years this defendant will then be placed on supervised probation for 3 years.
The Blog will continue to follow cases such as this one where state crimes are prosecuted by the feds instead. The federal government has become increasingly motivated to put felony gun offenders behind bars, and this is especially true in the Baltimore area. Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland robbery attorney that specializes in cases involving firearms and other weapons. Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation about your state or federal criminal case at 410-207-2598.