EAST ST. LOUIS – A man was sentenced today in the robbery last year of a Fairview Heights restaurant.
Christopher Ford, 29, of St. Louis, was sentenced to a 57-month term in federal prison, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release, and ordered to pay $1,883.30 in restitution, Stephen R. Wigginton, United States attorney for the Southern District of Illinois announced.
Ford had been charged with interference with Commerce by violence, a violation of the Hobbs Act, in connection with the robbery of Chili’s Bar and Grill in Fairview Heights on Aug. 1, 2013. Ford, who has been in custody since his arrest that same day, will remain in custody until he serves his prison sentence.
“While I am pleased to note that armed robberies of businesses have declined, I am still concerned that, as shown by the recent Circle K robbery near Belleville, the bad guys are not getting the message. Again, I want these persons to know that they will be caught and they will do federal time far from their homes and families,” Wigginton said. “My federal initiative will not cease until this kind of crime is eliminated. All of our citizens should feel safe in going to restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations. To ensure this, I will continue to use the Hobbs Act and every tool that I have to investigate and prosecute those who rob businesses engaging in interstate commerce.”
At the time of Ford’s guilty plea, court records showed that Ford and his co-defendants entered Chili’s Restaurant around 9:24 p.m. to commit a robbery. Ford and one of his co-defendants were masked and armed with BB guns that resembled semi-automatic firearms. The third co-defendant was unarmed and unmasked. More than 20 customers and employees were present in the restaurant when the defendants entered a side door. The manager was ordered at gunpoint by Ford to open the safe, which contained a cash drawer and box. The two co-defendants maintained watch over customers and employees (some of whom were ordered to the back of the restaurant and the ground) while monies were being taken. Some customers fled the restaurant during the robbery. An alert customer was able to record the Missouri license plate number of the getaway car, and to provide it to police during a 911 call.
Police officers quickly located the getaway car, and, after a chase, were able to catch it when it drove into the City of St. Louis and ran into a dead-end street. The defendants attempted to flee the police on foot but were quickly apprehended.
The case was investigated by the Fairview Heights Police Department and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Suzanne M. Garrison.