DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of New Mexico

For Immediate Release

Thursday, October 26, 2017
James D. Tierney
, United States Attorney
Contact: Elizabeth M. Martinez

Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Firearms Charges

Plea Agreement Recommends Imposition of Seven-Year Prison Sentence

ALBUQUERQUE – Gabriel Sanchez, 29, of Albuquerque, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court to firearms charges under a plea agreement that recommends a seven-year prison sentence.
 
Sanchez’s co-defendant Virgal Malott, 23, also of Albuquerque, was charged by criminal complaint on Feb. 18, 2015.  According to the complaint, officers of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) arrested Malott on outstanding state felony warrants on Feb. 14, 2015.  Thereafter, APD executed a state search warrant at Malott’s residence as part of an investigation into a series of armed robberies of Albuquerque-area businesses.  During the search, APD found a loaded firearm, which provided the basis for a federal criminal complaint charging Malott with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition that was filed on Feb. 18, 2015, by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).  In June 2015, Malott was charged in an 11-count indictment with violating the Hobbs Act by robbing seven businesses engaged in interstate commerce, carjacking, using and brandishing a firearm during crimes of violence, and with being a felon in possession of a firearm.  The indictment alleged that Malott committed the crimes in Bernalillo County, N.M., between Dec. 2014 and Jan. 2015.
 
The indictment was superseded in Aug. 2015, to add two more defendants, Sanchez and Paul Lujan, 22, also of Albuquerque, and two more charges.  The superseding indictment charged the three men with conspiring to violate the Hobbs Act by robbing businesses engaged in interstate commerce in Jan. 2015, the armed robbery of five Albuquerque-area businesses, and using and brandishing firearms during crimes of violence.  It also charged Malott alone with the armed robbery of two additional Albuquerque-area businesses, carjacking, and with being a felon in possession of a firearm.  The superseding indictment alleged that the three men committed the crimes in Bernalillo County between Dec. 2014 and Jan. 2015.
 
During today’s change of plea hearing, Sanchez entered a guilty plea to Count 12 of the superseding indictment, which charged him with using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.  In entering the guilty plea, Sanchez admitted that on Jan. 30, 2015, he carried and brandished a firearm during the armed robbery of the Title Max Loans located at 3900 San Mateo Blvd. NE in Albuquerque. 
 
Malott previously entered a guilty plea on Aug. 17, 2017, to three counts of the superseding indictment charging him with the armed robbery of a business engaged in interstate commerce, carjacking, and using and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.  In entering the guilty plea, Malott admitted robbing a title loan business located in Albuquerque on Dec. 22, 2014.  Malott acknowledged that he was armed when he committed the robbery, and that he pointed the firearm at the business’s three employees and threatening to kill them.  Malott also admitted committing a carjacking on Jan. 19, 2015, by pointing a firearm at an individual at an Albuquerque convenience store and demanding his wallet and keys.  Malott fled from the scene in the victim’s vehicle.  Under the terms of his plea agreement, Malott will be sentenced to  a term of 15 to 20 years of imprisonment to be followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
 
On Aug. 15, 2017, Lujan pled guilty to a felony information charging him with using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, and Lujan admitted that on June 30, 2015, he acted as the getaway driver during the armed robbery of the Loan Max Title Loan in Albuquerque.  Lujan admitted that he discarded a firearm while running from the police after the robbery.  Under the terms of his plea agreement, Lujan will be sentenced to 60 months of imprisonment followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
 
Malott was arrested in Nov. 2015, and Sanchez and Lujan were arrested in Dec. 2015.  The three men remain detained pending sentencing hearings, which have yet to be scheduled.
 
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of ATF with assistance from APD and the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rumaldo A. Armijo and David M. Walsh are prosecuting the case.
 
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Field Division: Phoenix Field Division