Brooklyn men indicted for $1 million check-cashing heist

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Two Brooklyn men could face life imprisonment for their roles leading the robbery of a Queens check-cashing store, which netted them and accomplices more than $1 million in ill-gotten gains.

Robert Rodriguez, aka “Chicho,” and his accomplice Raymundo Heyaime Sanchez stand accused by federal prosecutors of committing a violent armed heist of a check-cashing place in Jamaica, Queens, and then 14 months later returning to the scene of the crime and committing further armed robberies against three of the establishment’s customers.

Prosecutors are seeking to have the defendants detained without bail, citing them as significant flight risks should they walk free given Rodriguez’ lengthy rap sheet, the evidence against them, the danger he poses to the community, and the fact that he has family in the Dominican Republic whom he could flee to given the seriousness of the allegations against him.

“As alleged in the superseding indictment, the defendant is charged with the brazen gunpoint robberies of the owner and customers of a Queens check-cashing business,” stated US Attorney Breon Peace, of the Eastern District of New York, the office prosecuting the case. “Such openly menacing and violent conduct will not be tolerated. This Office will vigorously prosecute criminals who allegedly commit violent crimes using guns and endanger the safety and security of our communities.”

Eastern District prosecutors say that on July 3, 2020, Chicho and Sanchez followed the proprietor of the check-cashing store into the driveway of his business, pistol-whipped him, and demanded “the money” before stealing the $1 million that the victim was bringing into work to dispense to clients. The defendants also stole the proprietor’s car keys and cell phone as a white van blocked the exit to the driveway before fleeing.

The robbery, which was captured on CCTV footage, was premeditated, prosecutors allege, as the same white van was seen on surveillance footage a week earlier outside the victim’s house and the check-cashing store, when the Rodriguez and Sanchez were likely scoping both places out.

The pair went quiet with their ill-gotten gains for 14 months until reemerging in Sept. 2021, where they robbed three customers of the same check-cashing store on three separate days between Sept. 2 and Sept. 9.

The modus operandi was essentially the same in each case: the nogoodniks parked their car outside the store and staked it out, following customers driving away from the store after obtaining their cash, and robbing them when they reached their destination before fleeing. Rodriguez and Sanchez would exit the vehicle brandishing their guns, point them in the victim’s torso, and make away with their cash, keys, and cell phone. These robberies netted them up to $40,000.

Prosecutors say the evidence against the pair is overwhelming, with all their actions having been caught on surveillance camera, and cell phones belonging to them pinging cell towers from the check cashing store at the time of the robberies. The two were in constant communication before and after the robbery on their phones.

Rodriguez has a lengthy rap sheet going back nearly 15 years. Most recently, he was arrested in Westchester County following a high-speed chase with cops in a stolen car, during which he lost control of the vehicle, which he crashed and overturned before fleeing on foot in the woods.

“Despite multiple criminal convictions, the defendant was undeterred from committing further — and increasingly violent — criminal conduct,” the indictment reads, in support of detaining Rodriguez without bail. “Accordingly, the defendant’s history and characteristics weigh in favor of detention.”

Sanchez is currently detained pretrial without bail. The two are charged with federal Hobbs Act robbery and face a minimum of 84 months in federal custody if convicted, and potentially up to life imprisonment.