Local police departments were recognized yesterday at the Hazleton Police Barracks for their joint efforts that resulted in the capture and arrest of two 19-year old men suspected in a string of 11 robberies, stretching from late December to early February.
Peter J. Smith, United States Attorney General for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, was at the press briefing, along with representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Pennsylvania State Police, and local law enforcement agencies, including Tamaqua, McAdoo, Kidder Township, Rush Township, Nesquehoning and Hazleton police departments, and the Luzerne County, Schuylkill County and Carbon County District Attorney's offices.
They announced the indictment of two former New Jersey residents for participating in multiple armed robberies of stores and businesses located in all three counties between December 2011 and February 2012.
Smith said that teamwork, communication and diligence between multiple local police departments led to the Feb. 5 arrest of the two suspects.
Police departments from Tamaqua, Rush Township, Coaldale, Lansford, Summit Hill and Nesquehoning helped capture the suspects during a high speed pursuit that stretched from Tamaqua to Nesquehoning.
Captured were Tysheed "Sincere" Hargrove and Jose "Skillz" Nunez, both 19 and formerly of Newark, N.J. Smith added that they both had been living periodically in the Hazleton area. He added that both would face multiple years in a state prison if convicted of the crimes, after a federal grand jury in Scranton indicted them on Aug. 28.
During the press conference, Tamaqua Police Officer Robert Minnick, who was on patrol Dec. 5, recalled noticing a vehicle with an improperly displayed registration plate near the Five Points intersection in Tamaqua.
Remembering the description from other robberies, Minnick, who also works part time with the McAdoo police department, said the vehicle, a silver Ford Mustang, matched the description of the vehicle involved in another robbery at the Fegley's Mini-Mart on Jan. 26.
Minnick attempted to stop the vehicle on Center Street in Tamaqua, but the Mustang fled and led police on a 12-mile chase through Tamaqua, Coaldale, Lansford, Summit Hill and Nesquehoning. Police noted that suspects rammed a Nesquehoning police car during the end of the pursuit.
When asked how he felt about the arrest, Minnick said he simply said he was glad no one was injured.
Police used video surveillance along with witness descriptions of the robber to link the 11 robberies, said Tamaqua Cpl. Henry Woods said.
According to the indictment, Hargrove was indicted on 11 counts of interference with commerce by robbery and aiding and abetting, and one count of brandishing a firearm; while Nunez was indicted with aiding and abetting Hargrove in seven of the robberies, in addition to one count of aiding and abetting the brandishing of a firearm.
"Each of the robbery charges could carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and a three-year term of supervised release," said Smith during the press conference. "The charge for the firearm is also "serious" and carries a mandatory minimum penalty of seven years, consecutive to any other sentence"
Bob O'Hara, assistant U.S. Attorny, Scranton office, said ,"As a result of the federal charges, prosecutors are likely withdraw some duplicate charges filed by local police."
Smith stressed that federal prosecutors sought the indictment against Hargrove and Nunez for several reasons, describing out the federal statutes as "very strong." He added that they are mandating the men, if convicted, to spend almost their entire sentence in prison without parole.
The crimes involved the jurisdictions of McAdoo, Tamaqua, Hometown, Hazleton, Hazleton Township, Foster Township and Kidder Township.
"It makes sense to have the men face all the charges against them at one time instead of via each municipality," added Smith.
Frank DeAndrea, Hazleton Police Chief, pointed out that the federal charges free up local police to investigate other crimes.
Smith called the robberies "alarming," "brazen," and "reckless," noting a gun was pointed in the clerk's face in all of the 11 robberies.
The indictment, which included 11-counts, states that Nunez and Hargrove used threats and intimidation in the robberies to get money and products.
Officials were unable to provide a motive for the robberies as the case is still open. for a motive that Smith would not identify.
Hargrove told reporters on January 29 that he committed the acts for "personal reasons."
"This was is a great example of how local, state and federal agencies can work together to get an arrest," stressed Smith.
Smith and all other investigators in attendance stated their appreciation to every organization involved in the investigation, including local police, the FBI, Department of Justice, and the district attorney's offices in all three counties.
Other officers and officials in attendance were Bob O'Hara, Assistant U.S. Attorney; Kevin Wevodau, Senior Supervisory Agent in Charge, FBI; Sgt. Bryan Paulshock, Pennsylvania State Police, Criminal Investigation Section Supervisor; Trooper Ed Lizewski, Pennsylvania State Police, Frackville Barracks; Stephanie Salavantis, Luzerne County District Attorney; Karen Byrnes-Noon, Schuylkill County District Attorney; Jennifer Lehman, Schuylkill County Assistant District Attorney; Gary Dobias, Carbon County District Attorney; Chief Jeff Wainwright, McAdoo Police; Chief Matthew Kuzma, Kidder Township Police; Sgt. Duane Frederick, Rush Township Police, Chief Sean Smith, Nesquehoning Police and others.
Hargrove is in federal custody; Nunez is in state custody, Smith said. Both are in prison since the car chase.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. O'Hara is assigned to the Hargrove and Nunez case, and U.S. Senior District Judge Richard Conaboy, Scranton, will hear the cases. No dates have been set for proceedings, Smith said.
Clarence "C.J." Byrd, 17, of Hazleton, has also been charged through the juvenile court system for some of the robberies, although details about juvenile proceedings are not available to the public.
Tysheed Hargrove will face federal charges in the following armed robberies in which thousands of dollars and multiple items were stolen, according to prosecutors.