A jury in federal district court in Atlanta returned a guilty verdict Thursday, March 1, against Jose Reyes, Albert Espinal, and Johann Brito, all of Lawrenceville, on charges of armed robbery, drug trafficking, and using a firearm in connection with those offenses, according to an announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia. Their conviction followed a 13-day trial.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “The defendants and their robbery crew shot, stabbed, tortured, kidnaped, and restrained their victims, whom they suspected to be suspected drug dealers,” she said.
Reyes, 39; Espinal, 33; and Brito, 32, could each receive a maximum sentence of life and a fine of up to $10 million. Sentencing will be scheduled before U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans at a later date. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kim Dammers and Brent Gray are prosecuting the case.
Yates said that the crew committed robberies in Georgia, New York, and North Carolina. “These defendants not only targeted drug dealers, in at least two instances they mistakenly stabbed and tortured innocent victims,” she said. “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.”
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, according to Yates and information presented in court. The defendants and other members of the conspiracy were either born in the Dominican Republic or have close ties to the Dominican Republic.
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, the announcement stated.
After learning that a cocaine transaction was scheduled to take place at the house, the 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 gunshots, 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, according to the announcement.
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.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Gwinnett County Police Department.