A Texas man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his leadership role in an armed home invasion robbery crew that traveled the United States targeting families of South Asian and East Asian descent.
Juan Olaya, 41, of Houston, Texas, was convicted by a federal jury of 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 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. Olaya recruited other crew members and assigned roles to those members. Olaya and crew members then traveled to specific locations, conducted surveillance, and executed the robberies.
“The Criminal Division is committed to protecting the American public from violent criminals, particularly when those criminals target individuals based on their ethnicity or race,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “We hope that this prosecution, trial conviction, and sentence will serve as a deterrent to others who might think about engaging in similar violent conduct.”
“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. Castro was convicted by a federal jury on June 4, 2019, and was sentenced to 37 years in prison on Oct. 28, 2019. 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.
The crew utilized a particular modus operandi in each of the robberies. Members preferred to rob homes while the families were present so they could use their victims to point out valuable items. 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. 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.
The FBI’s Ann Arbor Office investigated the case with the assistance of federal agencies including U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Secret Service, and local law enforcement agencies in Michigan, including Washtenaw County Sherriff’s Office, Ann Arbor Police Department and Canton Police Department; local law enforcement agencies in Ohio, including Beachwood Police Department; local law enforcement agencies in Georgia, including the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, Cobb County Police Department, Gwinnett County Police Department, Duluth Police Department and Milton Police Department; local law enforcement agencies in New York, including Nassau County Police Department; the Tennessee Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies in Texas including Allen Police Department, Coppell Police Department, Flower Mound Police Department, Carrollton Police Department, Lewisville Police Department and Southlake Police Department.
Trial Attorneys Conor Mulroe and Bethany Lipman of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section prosecuted the case.