PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Lawrence Laws, 29, of Philadelphia, PA, was sentenced today to 13 years in prison and five years of supervised release for committing Hobbs Act robbery (robbery which interferes with interstate commerce) and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence arising from his participation in a robbery of a business in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia.
In February 2017 at approximately 1:15 a.m., the defendant and two co-defendants laid in wait for the owner of the Mermaid Bar located on Germantown Avenue, as he was closing the bar for the night along with his bartender. The victims approached their car and, after realizing that one of the defendants was hiding inside, holding what appeared to be an AK-47 assault rifle and waiting for the victims, they took off running. The defendants caught up to the bar owner, a 76-year old man, and his bartender and ordered them onto the ground.
The robbers forced the victims back into the bar at gunpoint, and proceeded to steal a firearm, cash, cartons of cigarettes, and a cell phone. Testimony at trial detailed how the defendants first took money from the bar owner’s pockets, money from the cash register, and a firearm hidden behind the bar, before two of the robbers forced the elderly business owner to the basement to steal money hidden there. When the owner initially resisted, Laws pointed a gun to his head, threatened to kill him, and also threatened to go to his home if he did not comply with their demands. While in the basement, one of the robbers took the owner’s debit card and PIN number, which they used to make multiple cash withdrawals from the bank ATM across the street before fleeing the scene together. Laws’ co-defendants previously pleaded guilty to charges related to this incident.
“Lawrence Laws and his co-defendants traumatized an elderly business owner and his employee, preying on them when they were most vulnerable – at the end of their shift, in the early morning hours when the hustle and bustle of Germantown Avenue stops,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Today’s sentence should serve as an example to others who use guns to terrorize business owners: our ‘All Hands on Deck’ initiative uses every law enforcement tool at our disposal to find and stop the most violent criminals in their tracks. If you rob any kind of business in Philadelphia with a firearm, you are going to face serious federal charges.”
“What Laws and the others put their victims through was horrifying,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “People shouldn’t have to fear being ambushed at gunpoint at their workplace, home, or anywhere else. Our Violent Crimes Task Force is working hard to put dangerous armed robbery crews like this behind bars and make Philadelphia safer. Today’s sentence ensures Laws won’t be terrorizing anyone else like he did that night in Mount Airy.”
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Philadelphia Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Alison Donahue Kehner.