NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – A Newport News man was convicted Friday for his involvement in more than 12 robberies of gas stations, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants stretching from Fredericksburg to Virginia Beach.
A federal jury convicted Christopher Ray Robertson, 36, on 20 counts relating to his participation as the “mastermind” during the robberies.
“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 [Friday’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,” Parekh continued.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, between 2013 and 2014, Robertson served as the mastermind behind the retail robberies in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Records also say that during the fall of 2013, Robertson got help from Michael Ellison, a 30-year-old convicted felon from Newport News, in committing multiple robberies of retail businesses in central and southeast Virginia.
Robertson selected the businesses, told Ellison what to do, and served as the lookout during the robberies.
Records say that after robbing, or attempting to rob, four businesses in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania from September 24 to October 13, 2013, the two split up for about a 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, of Durham. Robertson and Jones began a relationship before moving back to Newport News in 2014.
Once back in the Hampton Roads area, Robertson and Ellison reconnected and started robbing business again, allegedly based on Robertson’s suggestion.
In December 2014, Robertson, Jones, Ellison, and a juvenile robbed or attempted to rob eight businesses using a firearm provided by Robertson.
Robertson allegedly provided instructions to his co-conspirators during the robberies while he and Jones served as lookouts as Ellison and the juvenile entered the businesses wearing masks.
Court records say that on December 13, 2014, during a Subway restaurant robbery, bystanders in the parking lot identified the vehicle driven by Ellison — which law enforcement used to connect him back to the robbery in Spotsylvania County.
Law enforcement then identified Ellison as being associated with the robberies and further identified Robertson as a co-conspirator. Court records say that phone analysis showed Robertson’s phone in the immediate vicinity of all the robberies committed in 2014.
Jones and Ellison both pleaded guilty on February 6, 2019, and September 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.
Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.