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Jury convicts Newport News man who was mastermind of year-long armed robbery spree

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A federal jury convicted a Newport News man today on 20 counts relating to his participation during a series of more than 12 robberies of gas stations, convenience stores and fast food restaurants stretching from Fredericksburg to Virginia Beach.

“As demonstrated during the trial, this defendant served as the mastermind of an armed robbery spree that was chilling in its nature and scope,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Today’s verdict sends a clear message that our Office, along with its law enforcement partners, will work tirelessly to seek justice on behalf of victims and hold accountable individuals who spread fear in our communities.”

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, between 2013 and 2014, Christopher Ray Robertson, 36, served as the mastermind behind a series of retail business robberies in the Eastern District of Virginia. In the fall of 2013, Robertson enlisted the help of convicted felon, Michael Ellison, 30, Newport News, to commit multiple robberies of retail businesses in central and southeast Virginia. Robertson selected the businesses, directed Ellison’s actions, and served as the lookout during the robberies. After robbing or attempting to rob four businesses in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania from September 24 to October 13, 2013, Ellison and Robertson parted company for approximately one year to evade law enforcement detection.

Between November 2013 and the fall of 2014, Robertson was living in Durham, North Carolina, where he met Aquilla Jones, 31, Durham, North Carolina. Robertson and Jones began a relationship before moving back to Newport News in 2014. Robertson and Ellison then reconnected in Newport News and Robertson suggested they restart robbing businesses.

In December 2014, Robertson, Jones, Ellison, and a juvenile robbed or attempted to rob eight businesses using a firearm provided by Robertson. Robertson provided instructions to his co-conspirators during these robberies, and he and Jones served as lookouts while Ellison and the juvenile entered the businesses wearing masks.

On Dec. 13, 2014, during a Subway restaurant robbery, bystanders in the parking lot identified the vehicle driven by Ellison. This ultimately led to Ellison being arrested for the robbery in Spotsylvania County.

Law enforcement identified Ellison as being associated with the robberies and further identified Robertson as a co-conspirator. Phone analysis showed Robertson’s phone in the immediate vicinity of all the robberies committed in 2014.

Jones and Ellison both pleaded guilty on Feb. 6, 2019, and Sept. 11, 2017, respectively, for their roles in the robberies.

Robertson was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery, interference with commerce by robbery, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. He faces a mandatory minimum of 42 years in prison and a maximum of life when sentenced on July 20.

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