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Three Florida Men Found Guilty Of Pawn Shop Robbery Spree, Murder Of Elderly Customer

Three Florida men have been found guilty on all counts of a 21-count indictment—including robbery and murder.

Three Florida men have been found guilty on all counts of a 21-count indictment—including robbery and murder.

Jonathan Cruz, 36, Eric Ortiz Melendez, 28, and Jorge Aponte Figueroa, 25, were charged with conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robberies and the actual carrying out of committing Hobbs Act robberies of nine pawn shops in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties.

The men brandished and discharged firearms in furtherance of those robberies and murdered a pawn shop customer in Little Havana. Additionally, Cruz was found guilty of being a felon in possession of ammunition.

According to trial evidence, beginning in October 2016, Cruz, Ortiz Melendez, and Aponte Figueroa, along with their five previously convicted co-conspirators, agreed to commit armed robberies of pawn shops throughout South Florida in order to obtain jewelry to illicitly sell.

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Cruz organized and directed the teams of robbers after scouting the desired locations. Cruz provided the guns and tools needed for the robberies.

The men would travel from Cruz’s home, rob the stores, then return to Cruz’s place. Cruz would then sell the stolen jewelry to an unknown person and give each defendant his cut of the profits.

Trial evidence also showed that during robberies in Pembroke Park, West Park, and Miami, the robberies resulted in multiple shootings—one of which resulted in the murder of an elderly pawnshop customer in Little Havana.

The robbery spree began to unravel once three of the defendants were caught during a high-speed chase by the Hialeah Police Department after an armed robbery in that city. According to evidence, the remaining members of the group were planning their next heist in Miami Gardens by the time Cruz was arrested.

Sentencing for all three has been set for February 9, 2023. A]ponte Figueroa also was convicted after trial in March of 2022 of carjacking and murder. The sentencing in that matter has been set for January 4, 2023.

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