A jury has convicted a man accused of taking part in a series of armed robberies in Kentucky and three other states, including one in Bowling Green in which a person was shot in the back and died.
One of the other robberies in which Jorge Santos Caballero Melgar was charged happened in Lexington.
Jurors in federal court in Bowling Green convicted Cabellero Melgar this week on charges that included conspiring to interfere with commerce by robbery, conspiring to use guns during crimes of violence, murder during a crime of violence, and illegal reentry into the United States after being deported, according to acting U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett in Louisville.
Cabellero Melgar, 36, a native of Honduras, entered the U.S. illegally, was deported in early 2015, and then was back in the country leading the robbery ring by December 2016, Bennett said in a news release.
The indictment charged that Cabellero Melgar and others robbed 15 businesses in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Indiana in 2016 and 2017, many of them Hispanic-owned.
Many of the people charged lived in Nashville at the time. They traveled in teams to businesses, did surveillance of the stores and often bound employees with duct tape during the robberies, according to Bennett and court records.
Robbers inside the stores kept in touch with a lookout outside by cell phone during the crimes, according to a court document.
Cabellero Melgar was charged in nearly all of the robberies, but a dozen other people were charged in the case as well.
The first robbery included in the indictment was at the Beat the Clock Tax Service on Versailles Road in Lexington on Dec. 23, 2016.
Cabellero Melgar and others took $67,000 there, the indictment charged.
On March 17, 2017, he helped rob La Placita, a market and check-cashing business in Bowling Green.
He stayed outside, apparently as the getaway driver, with two others going into the store, according to court records.
Jose Cruz came to the store during the robbery to pick up his son, who was inside with the boy’s mother.
Cruz fought with one of the robbers and the other one tried to pistol-whip him, William Kurtz, an FBI special agent, said in an affidavit.
Cruz was shot during the fight and died at a hospital.
The robbers got away with $23,500, the indictment charged.
The robberies continued until September 2017, when police identified Cabellero Melgar and others and arrested them.
The robbers “demonstrated a penchant for violence and would have no doubt continued their path of carnage,” had authorities not caught them, Robert Brown, special agent in charge of the FBI in Kentucky, said in a release.
Cabellero Melgar could be sentenced to life in prison.