Tampa Men Facing Charges Of Impersonating Police, Robbing Drug Dealers
Four Tampa Bay area men are facing federal charges related to a conspiracy to rob individuals they suspected were drug dealers at gunpoint. They are all facing life sentences if convicted. The prosecution is being pursued by the federal (and not state government). They are also believed to have been involved in other armed robberies and three of these robberies resulted in shootings.
Drug dealers make dangerous targets, but they have no recourse to legal action when they are robbed. You can’t go to the cops and tell them your heroin got pinched by a stick-up boy. Further, the men dressed as cops while committing these robberies and had lights on their vehicles to make it appear as though they were undercover officers. They also wore vests with sheriff’s department insignias to further the illusion that they were law enforcement.
Two men face a mandatory minimum of 31 years while the least-involved conspirator faces a mandatory minimum of 14 years. All of the men face potential life sentences.
The Hobbs Act
The Hobbs Act is a federal legislation that protects interstate commerce from armed robbery, racketeering in labor unions, and deals with public corruption. Its application to a case of stick-up boys and drug dealers is bizarre. The men are accused of multiple counts of burglary with a weapon which is enough to put them in prison for life under state law. However, the federal allegations can do the same. More often than not, it comes down to who made the arrest. In this case, federal authorities must have pursued the case and decided to charge the men under The Hobbs Act.
The Hobbs Act is an anti-extortion statute that was meant to prevent the mafia from infiltrating U.S. labor unions. It essentially prohibits individuals from making threats or using violence to illegally influence others. Today, the Hobbs Act is still used like that, but more often than not, it’s used to reduce threats to interstate commerce. Those who hijack Amazon trucks, for example, could be charged under The Hobbs Act.
Generally speaking, those who face charges under The Hobbs Act are extorting or robbing legitimate businesses. “Interstate commerce” does not generally refer to illegal black market trafficking of narcotics. If the men were robbing delivery trucks, however, this prosecution would make much more sense. Otherwise, the men are being accused of interfering with interstate drug trafficking which isn’t actually a crime.
On the other hand, impersonating a police officer does trigger a Hobbs Act prosecution. Anyone who uses violence or threats of violence to deprive another individual of their property under the color of official right can be charged under The Hobbs Act. It’s just an unusual application of the law that the individual is not actually a government official and has no actual authority. They did, however, use the “color” of that authority to affect the robberies.
Talk to a Tampa Federal Defense Attorney Today
The Matassini Law Firm represents the interests of those who have been charged by federal authorities under federal law. Call our Tampa criminal lawyers today to schedule an appointment and we can begin discussing defense strategy immediately.