36 years in federal prison for Milwaukee man after 5 restaurant, Family Dollar robberies in less than 2 weeks

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Joel Rivera

MILWAUKEE — Joel Rivera, 29, on Jan. 12 was sentenced to serve 36 years in federal prison and five years of supervised release in connection with five robberies at restaurants and Family Dollar stores from Jan. 4 through Jan. 17, 2017.

According to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office, Rivera was convicted in federal court in September by a jury that found him guilty of two business robberies, known as “Hobbs Act Robberies,” and two counts of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of the robberies, violations.  Each robbery offense carried a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years. Together, the two firearm counts required an additional mandatory sentence of 32 years.

Prosecutors said the criminal activity targeted several restaurants in addition to the Family Dollar stores. During the robberies, Rivera’s accomplice wielded a loaded, semi-automatic handgun provided by Rivera, and the two men subsequently split the robbery proceeds, which they used primarily to purchase drugs.

During the sentencing hearing, the judge noted that Rivera, who has a prior armed robbery conviction dating back to 2007 and who had been charged but never convicted of two additional bar robberies, had achieved a new level of criminal sophistication in the instant case. She discussed at length, Rivera’s role in these armed robberies where he, as the leader and organizer of the criminal activity, minimized the risk to himself while making his accomplice the front man for the crimes.

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