ALBUQUERQUE ― Lorenzo Chavez, 25, and co-defendant James Montano, Jr., 23, both of Albuquerque, entered guilty pleas Feb. 23 in federal court to violating the Hobbs Act by robbing the Route 66 Casino Xpress Dec. 13, 2015 in Laguna Pueblo.
Chavez additionally entered a guilty plea to drug trafficking, Hobbs Act and firearms charges in a separate case.
Chavez, Montano and co-defendant Sara Ruiz, 39, of Grants, were charged in a three-count indictment filed June 30, 2016, with conspiracy to violate the Hobbs Act, violating the Hobbs Act by robbing the Route 66 Casino Xpress, a gas station/convenience store and casino in Laguna Pueblo, at gunpoint; and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.
The indictment alleged that the trio committed the crimes Dec. 13, 2015, in Bernalillo County. The indictment was superseded Feb. 7, 2017, and alleged the same offenses.
During yesterday’s proceedings, Chavez and Montano pled guilty to Count 2 of the indictment, charging them with violating the Hobbs Act by robbing the Route 66 Casino Xpress at gunpoint Dec. 13, 2015. Chavez also pled guilty to Count 3 of the indictment, charging him with brandishing a firearm during that robbery.
In addition to his guilty plea to the two charges in the case involving the Route 66 Casino Xpress, Chavez also entered a guilty plea to a Hobbs Act and methamphetamine trafficking charges in a separate case. In that case, Chavez alone was charged in a four-count indictment filed Feb. 24, 2016.
That indictment charged Chavez with possessing distribution quantities of methamphetamine Dec. 19, 2015, and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. It also charged Chavez with robbing an Allsups convenience store in southwest Albuquerque Dec. 29, 2015, and with brandishing a firearm during that robbery.
Yesterday, Chavez pled guilty to possessing almost 61 gross grams of methamphetamine Dec. 19, 2015, which he intended to distribute to others. He also pled guilty to robbing the Allsups convenience store at gunpoint Dec. 29, 2015.
Both Chavez and Montano remain in custody pending sentencing hearings, which have yet to be scheduled. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Chavez will be sentenced within the range of 120 to 180 months in prison. Montano faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Ruiz has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges in case involving the Route 66 Casino Xpress. She is in custody pending trial, which currently is scheduled for March 20, 2017. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
The case against Chavez, Montano and Ruiz, which arises from the armed robbery of the Route 66 Casino Xpress, was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and the Pueblo of Laguna Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elaine Y. Ramirez and Kristopher N. Houghton.
The case arising from the armed robbery of the Allsups convenience store and methamphetamine trafficking was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Albuquerque Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Mysliwiec and Letitia Carroll Simms.