San Diego, CA–The sixth and final defendant charged in California court for his involvement in a foiled Chula Vista residential robbery was sentenced to three years in state prison.
Jesus Estrada Torres and five co-defendants all previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the robbery conspiracy. Torres was the last defendant to be sentenced.
Mario Eugene Hall, Nicholas Jeremiah Shaw, Marco Quijas Castillo, Tomas Emmanuel Ramirez, Ignacio Martinez Cruz, and Torres, were all arrested on January 31, 2020, following their failed attempt to rob what they believed to be a residence containing approximately $1 million in illegal drug trafficking proceeds. Cruz was a prior officer in the Mexican military while Torres and Castillo were officers of the Tijuana Municipal Police Department at the time of their arrests. Torres had recently been promoted to District Chief in charge of Presa Rural, a district in Southeast Tijuana.
Two of the defendants were known to law enforcement prior to their arrests and they were also known to be actively seeking a target in the South Bay area which contained large amounts of bulk cash. The San Diego FBI-led Major Mexican Traffickers Task Force devised a plan to draw the defendants to a house alleged to contain over $1 million in cash to identify all members of the conspiracy and to prevent the criminal group from successfully locating an actual target location.
As alleged in the criminal complaint and noted in the plea agreements, on January 31, 2020, defendants Castillo, Cruz, and Torres, each Mexican nationals, crossed into the United States from Mexico while defendants Hall, Ramirez, and Shaw drove from San Bernardino County to Chula Vista, all with the intent of robbing a residence they believed contained approximately $1 million in cash.
The group met in the vicinity of a strip mall parking lot in Chula Vista with an undercover agent where three of the defendants admitted to personally being armed with firearms. All six defendants then traveled to a house in Chula Vista, in three separate vehicles, with at least one vehicle providing counter-surveillance in the surrounding neighborhood. When Shaw exited the vehicle and approached the target residence, law enforcement intervened through coordinated, tactical efforts, and all six were simultaneously taken into custody without incident.
“These defendants armed themselves with guns and traveled to a house they expected to be occupied with people. Their plan was to tie those people up, take their phones, and search for the $1 million dollars they believed to be inside,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “This case serves as a great example of why we work in the task force environment, bringing law enforcement agencies together, to flush out a violent criminal conspiracy. The FBI is proud to be a part of the Major Mexican Traffickers Task Force and to work with our partner agencies on cases such as this.”
“This Task Force investigation, along with our prosecution, formed a tenacious team that got a group of dangerous and high-level criminals off the street,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. “These defendants crossed the border and county lines in their brazen robbery attempt, but were ultimately shut down by the coordinated power of our law enforcement partners.”
All six defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery while armed with a firearm. It should be noted that while only three of the defendants were personally armed with firearms, California law allows for all co-defendants to be held responsible for firearms used during the commission of a crime. Ramirez and Hall each pleaded guilty to an additional count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The case was investigated by the FBI-led Major Mexican Traffickers Task Force.