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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Montana
Jesse Laslovich, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Monday, April 3, 2023

Billings Man Admits Armed Robbery Charges in Carjacking

BILLINGS — A Billings man admitted to robbery and firearms crimes today after he was accused of stealing a car at gunpoint in Billings and leading law enforcement on a chase into Big Horn County, where he was arrested, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Joseph Wayne Cantrell, 29, pleaded guilty to a superseding information charging him with Hobbs Act Robbery and with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Cantrell faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine and at least three years of supervised release on the robbery charge and a mandatory minimum seven years to life in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, a $250,000 fine and five years of supervised release on the firearm charge.

U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing was set for Aug. 2. Cantrell was detained pending further proceedings.

The government alleged in court documents that on Jan. 8, 2022, the victim was sitting in his 2017 Subaru Outback in a parking lot in Billings when Cantrell approached his driver’s side door. The victim told Cantrell to go away. Cantrell then pulled out a black handgun, and the victim immediately surrendered his car to Cantrell, who drove off in it. Less than an hour later, law enforcement found Cantrell with the car. Cantrell fled and led law enforcement on a chase from Yellowstone County into Big Horn County. Law enforcement deployed spike strips to stop Cantrell and could hear gunshots coming from the car. The car wrecked a short time later and Cantrell fled with the firearm into a nearby field. The car’s passenger side window had been shot out. After a standoff lasting several hours, Cantrell threw the firearm away and was arrested. The firearm was a 9mm semi-automatic pistol.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas K. Godfrey and Lori Harper Suek are prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, with assistance from the Billings Police Department, Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office, Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office and Montana Probation and Parole.

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 gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

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