November 18, 2017 2:17 am Last modified: 5:50 pm

Ayala Gets 11 Years in Prison for Hobbs Act Robbery

District Court Judge Curtis V. Gomez on Monday sentenced 34-year-old Crucian Aracelis N. Ayala to 11 years in prison and five years of supervised release for Hobbs Act robbery and related gun offenses, acting U.S. Attorney Joycelyn Hewlett announced in a news release issued Thursday.

Gomez also ordered Ayala to perform 400 hours of community service and pay a $300 special assessment.

Ayala is also known as “Gordita” and “Fluff.”

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On Feb. 23, a federal jury found Ayala guilty 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.

The Hobbs Act is a federal statute prohibiting actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce “in any way or degree.” It can be used by prosecutors to make a federal offense of a crime that might otherwise by a local case.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Ayala and two men conspired to rob Signature Jewelers on Aug. 19, 2015. Ayala provided cash, rented a vehicle, and secured hotel rooms on St. Thomas. During the robbery Ayala’s co-conspirators brandished a handgun to intimidate 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, 21, and Raheem Miller, also known as “Caesar,” 24, pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery and related firearm offenses. They were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, and are awaiting sentencing on July 5.

This case is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the Virgin Islands Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anna A. Vlasova and Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte.

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