Houston man sentenced to 40 years for leading string of armed robberies targeting Asian families

Handcuffs graphic
Handcuffs graphic

HOUSTON – A Houston man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for leading an armed home invasion robbery crew that targeted families of South Asian and East Asian descent, the United States Department of Justice confirmed Friday.

Juan Olaya, 41, was convicted by a federal jury for one count of racketeering conspiracy, four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and four counts of brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence on March 9, 2020.

According to evidence presented at the trial, Olaya acted as the road boss for an enterprise that committed a string of armed home invasions in Michigan, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Texas from August through December of 2014. Officials said Olaya recruited other crew members and assigned roles to those members. Officials said Olaya and crew members then traveled to specific locations, conducted surveillance, and executed the robberies.

“Juan Olaya and his robbery crews committed a host of violent crimes that terrorized innocent victims across the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge Timothy Waters of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “His crimes are made more disturbing because the victims were chosen based on their ethnicity or race. The FBI will continue to work with our federal, state, and local partners to investigate and hold accountable predators like Olaya who threaten the safety of our communities.”

The organizer of the crew, Chaka Castro, ran the enterprise from 2011 through 2014, officials said. Castro was convicted by a federal jury on June 4, 2019, and was sentenced to 37 years in prison on Oct. 28, 2019. Officials said Castro generated lists of robbery targets in various states around the county, specifically families whose last names were common to certain ethnicities, and assigned crews to carry out armed robberies inside the families’ homes.

Authorities said the crew utilized a particular modus operandi in each of the robberies.

According to officials, members preferred to rob homes while the families were present so they could use their victims to point out valuable items. Officials said members disguised their appearance with clothing and bandanas so that victims would have difficulty identifying them. They openly carried and brandished firearms to gain control of the victims and then immediately corralled the victims, including children, into one location in the home, officials said.

Authorities said at least one crew member then restrained the victims using duct tape and threats of violence, as one or more others ransacked the home in search of cash, jewelry, and electronics. The crew organized their trips to involve multiple home invasion robberies over a series of days, officials said.

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