A federal jury on St. Thomas found Aracelis N. Ayala guilty Thursday of one count of Hobbs Act robbery, one count of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, and one count of robbery in the first degree, U.S. Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe announced.
Ayala, who is also known as “Gordita” and “Fluff,” is a 34-year-old St. Croix resident. She faces as much as 20 years on each of the Hobbs Act robbery and local robbery charges and a consecutive mandatory minimum sentence of seven years for the brandishing of a firearm charge.
The Hobbs Act is a federal law prohibiting actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce “in any way or degree,” or to conspire to commit robbery or extortion.
Judge Curtis V. Gomez remanded Ayala into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending her sentencing on June 29.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Ayala was a member of a robbery crew that conspired to rob Signature Jewelers on Aug. 19, 2015. Ayala conspired with other individuals to rob the store by providing cash and a handgun, renting a vehicle and securing hotel rooms on St. Thomas. Upon entering the store, Ayala’s cohorts brandished a handgun to threaten the store employees and used duct tape to bind and gag them before fleeing with cash and merchandise.
Other members of the conspiracy, Turrel Thomas and Raheem “Caesar” Miller, pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery and related firearm offenses. They were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending sentencing on June 22.
This case was a result of an investigation by the FBI and the V.I. Police Department and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anna A. Vlasova and Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte.