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INSIDE JOB CONFIRMED: Three Dominican Men And One Puerto Rican Man Arraigned For McDonald’s Shotgun Robbery At Lockhart Gardens

NO EXIT STRATEGY: Juan De Dios terrified customers and McDonald’s workers in Sugar Estate on March 25 by wielding a shotgun during the robbery. 

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Three natives of the Dominican Republic and one Puerto Rican native were arraigned in federal court today for their alleged roles in the shotgun robbery of the Sugar Estate McDonald’s in late March.

The Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) declared in a press release on Monday that the man who held the shotgun during the robbery and died of a gunshot wound — 17-year-old Juan De Dios of the Dominican Republic — died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds from his own shotgun.

The VIPD said that although law enforcement officers returned fire after De Dios fired his shotgun — none of the bullets they fired from their guns simultaneously struck the dead aspiring boxer, according to the results of the autopsy police conducted.

Hanselo Recio, 18, Betel Paulino, 18, and Junior Feliz, 22, of the Dominican Republic, and Helwood Paris, 20, of Puerto Rico, made their initial appearances today before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Ruth Miller, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Joycelyn Hewlett.

Each of the four men are charged with Hobbs Act robbery, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, conspiracy to possess a firearm during a crime of violence, and territorial charges of robbery, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm in a public housing zone, Hewlett said.

The men were detained pending detention hearings to be scheduled. According to the Information, on March 25, 2017, members of the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) responded to reports of a robbery at the McDonald’s restaurant in Lockhart Shopping Center on St. Thomas.

After an exchange of gunfire, Recio, who was inside McDonald’s surrendered and was taken into custody.

The follow-up investigation identified Paulino, Feliz and Paris as the remaining persons involved in the robbery.

The penalty for conviction of Hobbs Act robbery or the local robbery charge is up to 20 years, and for the federal charge of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, it is a mandatory 10-year consecutive sentence.

For the territorial possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, the penalty is up to 15 years and for possession of a firearm in a public housing zone, the penalty is up to 30 years.

The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the VIPD.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sigrid M. Tejo-Sprotte.

Hewlett said that a criminal information document is merely a formal charging paper and is not in and of itself evidence of guilt.

“Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.” she said.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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