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Crazy Charlie Rodriguez, 1998

Crazy Charlie Rodriguez, 1998

During the bank robberies, the criminals wore ski masks,
gloves, and bullet-proof vests and carried automatic weapons.

“Crazy Charlie” Rodriguez was one of Camden’s most wanted fugitives and eluded authorities for more than a year before being captured in an elaborate FBI sting. Rodriguez, his brother Joseph, and Jose Soto were responsible for a string of violent “take over” bank robberies in the South Jersey area. During the bank robberies, they wore ski masks, gloves, and bullet-proof vests and carried automatic weapons. During one robbery, they fired six shots at the glass front doors of the bank, six shots through a door in the area of the main vault, and at least one shot into the ceiling. In attempt to capture him, Rodriguez was twice profiled on America’s Most Wanted.

Jose Soto

On September 1, 1998, the trio—heavily armed and wearing body armor—drove to the Walt Whitman Service Plaza on the New Jersey Turnpike to rob an armored car they believed carried $1million. In reality, the armored car guards were FBI agents, as were other “decoys” dressed in plain clothes to look like rest stop patrons and employees. Once the would-be robbers arrived via a back service road, New Jersey State Police closed the Turnpike in both directions and actual customers and workers were taken away to a safe area inside the building. After a brief shootout with FBI SWAT agents, the three men were arrested without significant injuries. The success of the operation can be attributed to the excellent tactical planning of the law enforcement agencies involved.

A view of the Service Plaza where FBI agents
arrested the violent bank robbery crew.
crazy_charlie-4.jpg crazy_charlie-5.jpg
Six loaded firearms, including two machine guns and 1,000
rounds of ammunition, were found in the stolen
car the men drove to the rest stop.

The Rodriguez brothers and Soto were charged with federal weapons violations, several counts of bank robbery, Hobbs Act violations, carjacking, and conspiracy. Following a nine-week trial in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, they were found guilty of all counts. Charles and Joseph Rodriguez were sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Jose Soto was sentenced to 37 years and three months imprisonment.