By Karen Zautyk
Special agents of the FBI arrested an East Orange man last Thursday in connection with the armed robbery of a Belleville convenience store April 17, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported.
The details surrounding the hold-up appear to fit the string of ll heists by a team of bandits reported in The Observer on May 22, however a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office would neither confirm nor deny that the arrestee was in any way linked to those crimes or to any other suspect.
The man arrested last week was identified as Bobby Dawson, 43, of East Orange, charged with “one count of committing a Hobbs Act robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.”
According to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Newark: On or about the afternoon of April 17, Dawson, reportedly wearing a mask and brandishing a firearm, entered the Belleville News and Food store at 111 Newark Ave.
Dawson allegedly pointed the gun at the store clerk’s head and demanded money from the cash registers. The clerk complied, and Dawson reportedly fled with $2,000.
According to the complaint, security video captured the robbery and an image of the suspect removing his mask before leaving the premises. In addition, the store’s video had footage of a man resembling the suspect apparently conducting a reconnaissance of the shop the day before, authorities said.
The Hobbs Act robbery charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison; the weapons charge, by a maximum life sentence and a mandatory minimum of seven years, which must run consecutively to any other prison term. Each count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss.
Fishman credited special agents of the FBI with the investigation leading to Dawson’s arrest and also thanked the Belleville, Kearny, Bloomfield, Maplewood, Newark, Paramus, and Verona police departments, the N.J. State Police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office for their assistance.
The heists reported in the earlier Observer story had occurred in Belleville, Kearny, Bloomfield, Newark, Linden, Maplewood and West Orange over a period of nearly three months, starting in early February, authorities said.
In May, following investigations by local and state police, the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force took over the case.