ELIZABETH, NJ - Two men late last week pleaded guilty in connection to a violent 2014 robbery at an Elizabeth scrap metal yard, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Wednesday.
Rafael Clemmons, 30, of Irvington, admitted to first-degree kidnapping, while Sharod Saunders, 43, of Newark, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery. Three other men pleaded guilty in the case earlier this year.
Elizabeth police responded to the Bayway Scrap Metal yard on Amboy Avenue on April 18, 2014 and found multiple victims who said they had been held hostage by men wearing masks and brandishing three handguns and an assault rifle, said Assistant Prosecutor Jeremiah Lenihan, who prosecuted the case.
Lenihan said the men physically assaulted and threatened the business owner and her husband, both in their 60s, before binding them and four others in the store at their hands and feet with zip ties. The men then stole their wallets and cash, Lenihan said.
The six victims were held for approximately 90 minutes, Lenihan said. One customer was pistol-whipped until he fell unconscious and the others were told that they were “going to die together,” according to the prosecutor's office.
The men loaded more than 600 catalytic converters valued at approximately $100,000 into a rented vehicle. They fled the scene, but not before stealing a pickup truck from an outside parking lot, the prosecutor’s office said.
Police spotted the men heading northbound on Routes 1&9, resulting in a brief chase. Both getaway vehicles crashed, with one colliding with a police vehicle, the prosecutor’s office said.
Four of the five men were arrested at the scene and each was held on $1 million bail. Newark residents Michael Howard, 25, and Steven Chambers, 32, pleaded guilty in the case earlier this year, officials said.
Anthony Brailsford, 28, of Irvington remained at-large until he was arrested in February this year, officials said.
Brailsford and Howard are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 20 before state Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch. Prosecutors will recommend Brailsford and Howard serve 9 and 11 years respectively in state prison.
Sentencing for the other three men is scheduled for Nov. 3 before Judge Kirsch. Prosecutors will recommend a 25-year sentence for Clemmons, and a 22-year sentence for Chambers and Saunders, with 85 percent of all three terms to be served before the possibility of parole.