NEWARK, N.J. – Two men, from South Orange and Irvington, were indicted by a federal grand jury for their alleged roles in a September 2015 armed robbery of a club in Passaic, New Jersey, announced acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick on Friday, March 24. Both will be arraigned at a date to be determined.
The two men, Keontrae Lawrence, a/k/a “Taz,” age 28, of South Orange, and Jimmy Cooper, a/k/a “Flip,” age 32, of Irvington, were both charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, and one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, stated a release from the New Jersey Department of Justice.
According to the indictment and other documents filed in this case, in the early morning hours of Sept. 6, 2015, Cooper, Lawrence, and others allegedly agreed to rob a club in Passaic at gunpoint. Cooper sent text messages to a conspirator’s phone coordinating the timing of the robbery and discussing how to smuggle the gun into the club.
Minutes later, Lawrence and a conspirator entered the office of the club where an employee was alone. They brandished a firearm, threatened to kill the employee, and emptied the contents of an open safe into two purses. Lawrence and the other robber ordered the employee to the ground and told him to count to 100 as they lowered the lights and fled the club in a getaway car, stated the release from the New Jersey Department of Justice.
Following the robbery, the robbers led the police on a high-speed car chase through Passaic, Newark, and East Orange, abandoning the car in East Orange and fleeing on foot. Lawrence was arrested a short while later and charged by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office with robbery and firearms offenses. Cooper was arrested on Nov. 3, 2016, after both men were charged by complaint in Newark federal court on Nov. 2, 2016, stated the release.
The count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence carries a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison, and that sentence must be consecutive to any other sentence imposed. The Hobbs Act conspiracy charge carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss from the offense.
Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, and members of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, with the investigation leading to the charges.
Fitpatrick also acknowledged the efforts of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, the Passaic Police Department, and the Newark Police Department for their assistance. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine K. Lou of the U.S. Attorney’s General Crimes Unit in Newark.