Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Commercial Armed Robbery, Firearms, and Carjacking Charges
Plea Agreement Requires Prison Sentence in the Range of 20 to 25 Years
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 01, 2014|
ALBUQUERQUE—Joel Meeks, 20, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, pleaded guilty this morning to violating the Hobbs Act by interfering with a business involved in interstate commerce by robbery and the federal carjacking and firearms laws. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Meeks will be sentenced to prison for 20 to 25 years, followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
Meeks and his co-defendant Raul Ortega, 21, also of Albuquerque, were arrested in April 2013 on an eight-count indictment charging the pair with offenses stemming from a series of armed robberies of commercial businesses and home invasions, including armed robbery and carjacking, occurring in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, from December 6, 2012 to January 17, 2013.
According to the indictment, Meeks robbed a business called Up in Smoke at gunpoint on December 6, 2012. Meeks also was charged with robbing a business called PDQ at gunpoint on December 7, 2012, and with discharging his firearm while committing the offense. Meeks and Ortega were jointly charged with committing carjackings on January 13, 2013 and January 17, 2013. The two men allegedly brandished firearms while committing the carjackings.
Today, Meeks pled guilty to counts three and four of the indictment, which charged him with robbing the PDQ store on December 7, 2012, and with discharging a firearm while robbing the store. In his plea agreement, Meeks admitted robbing the PDQ store by pointing a pistol at the store clerk and demanding cash. Meeks discharged the pistol in the direction of the store clerk as he fled from the store.
Meeks also pled guilty to count five, which charged him with the January 13, 2013 carjacking, and admitted that Ortega and he forcibly entered a home and robbed the homeowner of his credit cards, identification, and other objects. Meeks and Ortega assaulted the homeowner to obtain the PIN for his ATM card, his car keys, and his car. They also threatened to harm the homeowner and his family if he contacted the police and left him face-down in a bathtub full of water to facilitate their escape.
In entering his guilty plea to count seven, charging him with the January 17, 2013 carjacking, Meeks admitted that Ortega and he forcibly entered another home by knocking the homeowner down, beating him and tying him up when the homeowner answered the door. Meeks and Ortega robbed the homeowner of his credit cards, ATM card, and other items and forced the homeowner to provide the PIN for his ATM card. Meeks and Ortega also robbed the homeowner of his car keys and car and threatened to kill him if he screamed or called the police.
Meeks remains in custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
On February 19, 2014, Ortega entered guilty pleas to counts five and seven of the indictment, which charged him with the January 13, 2013 and January 27, 2013 carjackings. Ortega also pled guilty to count six, which charged him with using a firearm during the January 13, 2013 carjacking. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Ortega will be sentenced to prison for 12 to 20 years followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. His sentencing hearing also has not been scheduled.
This case was brought as part of a law enforcement initiative launched in July 2012, by the FBI’s Violent Crimes and Major Offender Squad and the Albuquerque Police Department’s Armed Robbery Unit that targets suspects implicated in commercial armed robberies. This initiative is part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under the worst of the worst anti-violence initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from our communities for as long as possible.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque Field Office of the FBI and the Albuquerque Police Department, with assistance from the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon K. Stanford.