A federal jury has convicted a New York man of engaging in a violent, multi-state crime spree during which he kidnapped and sexually assaulted an ex-girlfriend who had a protection-from-abuse order against him, assaulted a federal employee, set fire to a used car dealership, and rammed multiple police vehicles before being apprehended.
Luis Figueroa, 41, was convicted of kidnapping; criminal sexual abuse; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence; and assaulting an employee of the United States, following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark federal court.
In the image above, Hazleton Police Chief Frank V. DeAndrea at a news conference displayed a photo of Figueroa, who had been arrested 39 times, with a rap sheet dating to 1997.
Figueroa had previously pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon and arson.
“After he pleaded guilty, and prior to his sentencing, the defendant asked the court to let him withdraw his guilty plea, which the court did,” said Matthew Reilly, a Department of Justice spokesperson. “A grand jury returned a superseding indictment after that.”
“The conduct for which this defendant was convicted describes an almost unimaginable level of violence and depravity,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger. “All of the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that worked on finding, capturing and prosecuting him did outstanding work in this case. This conviction, and the severe punishment the defendant now faces, should ensure that he is no longer a threat to public safety.”
“This guilty verdict brings accountability to a violent criminal who will answer for his multi-state crime spree and acts of violence,” Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey L. Matthews said.
According to court documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial, Figueroa, armed with a shotgun, waited outside the Hazleton, Pennsylvania, apartment of his former girlfriend on the morning of June 6, 2014.
When she emerged from the apartment, Figueroa struck the victim in the face with the shotgun and said: “I told you I was going to kill you.”
Figueroa then proceeded to physically assault both the former girlfriend and her sister, who, at the time, was eight months pregnant.
As Figueroa attacked the women, another family member took Figueroa’s and the ex-girlfriend’s young child into a bedroom to shield the child from the violence.
After struggling with the pregnant woman and causing her to fall down a flight of stairs, Figueroa collected the shotgun from the apartment and led his former girlfriend to a red SUV, where he forced her into the backseat.
Figueroa then drove the victim across state lines to New Jersey. Figueroa eventually stopped at the Kittatinny Point Visitor’s Center, which is located on federal property, and sexually assaulted his former girlfriend.
After the assault, the victim convinced Figueroa to dispose of the shotgun.
When Figueroa went to do so, the victim climbed into the driver’s seat of the red SUV and drove away to safety.
After returning and discovering both his former girlfriend and the red SUV were no longer there, Figueroa approached a National Park Service employee, and led the employee to a nearby storage room, where he slammed the victim’s head against a door and threatened to harm the victim if he did not hand over the keys to his car.
The employee complied and Figueroa fled the scene in the victim’s car.
Figueroa then went on to Paterson, New Jersey, where he tried to trade in the stolen vehicle for a Cadillac Escalade at a car dealership operated by a person with whom he had a prior business relationship.
Figueroa asked an employee for a portable gas canister, which he filled shortly thereafter at a nearby gas station, and then returned to the dealership and doused the office with gasoline.
After a brief struggle with an employee, Figueroa ignited a match and set the building on fire, engulfing the structure in flames and setting himself on fire in the process.
Figueroa then fled the scene in another vehicle.
Law enforcement officers spotted Figueroa’s vehicle driving erratically towards the George Washington Bridge heading into New York.
Ignoring the officers’ commands to stop, Figueroa led police on a high-speed chase in which he rammed his vehicle into multiple police vehicles, injuring a police officer.
Figueroa then got out of his vehicle and fled on foot. Officers placed Figueroa under arrest shortly thereafter.
The kidnapping charge and the aggravated sexual abuse charge each carry a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison, a maximum penalty of life in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.
The possession of a firearm by a convicted felon charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assaulting an employee of the United States charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The arson charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 8, 2022.