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Members of Robbery Crew Convicted, Face Life Sentence
Robbery Crew Responsible for Two Deaths, Shootouts in Public

U.S. Attorney’s Office March 01, 2012
  • Northern District of Georgia (404) 581-6000

ATLANTA—A jury in federal district court has returned a guilty verdict against JOSE REYES, 39; ALBERT ESPINAL, 33; and JOHANN BRITO, 32 all of Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia, on charges of armed robbery, drug trafficking, and using a firearm in connection with those offenses.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of today’s verdict, “These three defendants belonged to the Cartier robbery crew that engaged in at least two shootouts in broad daylight—one at a busy intersection in Lawrenceville and another in a quiet subdivision in Duluth. The defendants and their robbery crew shot, stabbed, tortured, kidnapped, and restrained their victims, whom they suspected to be drug dealers.” Yates noted that the crew committed robberies in Georgia, New York, and North Carolina. According to Yates, “These defendants not only targeted drug dealers, in at least two instances they mistakenly stabbed and tortured innocent victims. And, their willingness to break into homes and engage in high-speed chases with police and public shootouts endangered the lives of all our residents. The convictions of these defendants, as well as the guilty pleas for eight other related defendants, ensure that the public will be protected from these dangerous criminals.”

Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “The FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, with its varied law enforcement agency members, is capable of bringing a coordinated law enforcement effort to bear on such violent criminal enterprises who cross many jurisdictional boundaries as was seen in this case. The FBI is proud of its contributions in getting these violent individuals off the streets and remains committed toward working with its law enforcement partners in providing a safer community for all.”

“The violence associated with drug smuggling is a matter of critical concern to law enforcement,” said Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Atlanta. “These men waged an interstate crime wave that resulted in the torture and abuse of innocent people and risked the lives of countless bystanders in their search for money tainted with the blood of their victims. As a society, we cannot stand for this behavior. As an agency, HSI stands against these criminals, working with partners like the FBI, the Gwinnett County Police, and the U.S. Attorney to bring these perpetrators to justice.” Nicholson oversees HSI activities in Georgia and the Carolinas.

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 bath tub, and pistol-whipping him in an attempt to learn the location of secreted 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.

Two defendants, ROBERTO ROSARIO, known as Mello, and JEAN CARLOS RAMOS, known as Gorillon, are still fugitives.

After a 13-day jury trial, the jury found REYES, ESPINAL, and BRITO guilty on all counts.

REYES, ESPINAL, and BRITO could each receive a maximum sentence of life and a fine of up to $10,000,000. Sentencing will be scheduled before United States District Judge Orinda Evans at a later date, not yet determined. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

This case was investigated by the FBI, ICE-HSI, and the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Assistant United States Attorneys Kim Dammers and Brent Gray are prosecuting the case.

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