Five defendants accused in connection with an April armed robbery at the McDonald’s in Lockhart Gardens pleaded not guilty Wednesday in District Court. U.S. Magistrate Ruth Miller accepted the pleas and ordered a trial to begin at 9 a.m. July 10.
Defendants Hanselo Recio, Betel Paulino, Helwood Paris, Junior Antonio Feliz and Troy Titley are being prosecuted on four federal and four local criminal charges apiece. The most serious charges are Hobbs Act robbery and conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery.
They are also charged with a federal violation involving use of weapons to commit violent acts. The fourth charge under the U.S. Criminal Code alleges possession of weapons for use in violent acts.
Local charges include first-degree robbery, use of unlicensed firearms in the commission of robbery, possession of unlicensed firearms in a public housing zone and conspiracy.
The charges were brought in connection with an incident in which three male gunmen entered the fast food restaurant around closing time, armed with weapons and demanding money. One of the three, 17-year-old Juan de Dios, was shot and killed during a police confrontation at the scene.
Recio, 18, was injured and later arrested. A third person, identified as a 17-year-old minor, was also arrested. V.I. Attorney General Claude Walker said because of his age, the minor’s case was referred to Family Court. No further information is available on that defendant.
Titley, identified as a former special investigator for the V.I. Department of Justice, is the latest defendant added to the case. His name appears along with Recio, Paris, Feliz and Paulino in a federal indictment dated May 18. According to investigators, Titley furnished the vehicle used at the scene.
All five appeared for arraignment in Miller’s courtroom Wednesday morning. The magistrate set the dates for pre-trial proceedings leading up to the trial.
Gabriel Villegas, a federal public defender, complained to the court that his client, Paris, was still being held by the Bureau of Corrections on local charges that should have been dismissed by now. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Sigrid Sprotte said that may be an assumption on the part of the defense.
“There are local charges that we have not assimilated into our indictment that can still go forward,” Sprotte said.
Charges arising from a Hobbs Act violation accuse defendants of taking money or possessions against the victim’s will by means of actual or threatened force, violence or fear of injury.
Three firearms, a Jennings .22 caliber pistol, a Remington 12 gauge shotgun and a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol, were recovered by investigators.