NEWARK, N.J (STL.News) Meshach Whagar, 31, of Newark, N.J., admitted today to participating in a string of convenience store robberies that took place across New Jersey in November and December 2017, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Whagar pleaded guilty by videoconference before United States District Judge Kevin McNulty to a superseding information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, nine substantive counts of Hobbs Act robbery, and one count of using a firearm during a crime of violence. Whagar’s co-defendant, Tione Davis, 38, of East Orange, N.J., previously pleaded guilty to federal charges relating to the armed robbery spree.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Davis and Whagar committed a string of 20 armed robberies of convenience stores and gas stations that took place throughout New Jersey between November and December 2017, including locations in Essex, Middlesex, Morris, Bergen, Union, Hudson, and Passaic Counties. During those robberies, Davis, while wearing dark clothing and hiding his face with masks or scarves, brandished a handgun and demanded money from store clerks. After stealing cash from the stores, Davis fled with Whagar, who acted as the getaway driver.
Before being apprehended, the defendants led law enforcement on a high-speed vehicle pursuit in Morris County. Among the items found in the vehicle defendants used in the chase were two handguns matching the description of those Davis used during the robberies.
The Hobbs Act charges each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The charge of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison. Each count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for April 28, 2021.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the Morris, Union, Middlesex, Hudson, Passaic, Bergen, and Essex County Prosecutor’s Offices, as well as the Morris Plains, Springfield, Middlesex, Lodi, Roselle Park, Rahway, Parsippany, Rockaway, Mahwah, Elmwood Park, Bayonne, West Orange, East Brunswick, South River, Edison, Hoboken, Union, Clark, Kearny, Clifton, and Maplewood Police Departments for their work on this case.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Suchorsky of the Economic Crimes Unit.
Defense counsel for Whagar: James Plaisted, Esq., Hackensack, N.J.
Defense counsel for Davis: Nabil Kassem, Esq., Clifton, N.J.