WILKES-BARRE – Officials with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office said federal authorities assisted and will prosecute the case against two suspected serial robbers because their crimes disrupted commerce and business in Luzerne County.
Authorities said Jeffrey Townsley robbed nine businesses during a 17 day crime spree, and his accomplice Charles Conden, helped with several of the holdups.
At a news conference inside the Luzerne County Courthouse, investigators said they could not answer questions about how the men had connected, if they planned on robbing more businesses, how they were caught, or why they committed the crimes.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said authorities wanted to reassure workers and shoppers in the Wyoming Valley who felt uneasy.
“Our community is concerned about safety, that is their number one concern,” said Salavantis. “Just looking at the cooperation between all of these agencies is key to fighting the violent crimes occurring in our neighborhoods.”
FBI Special Agent Christian Zajac said the feds were called in to help as the robberies escalated, because the crimes interfered with daily business.
“Anytime that you have a violent crime that involves the disruption of commerce, that case can be prosecuted under the Hobbs Act,” explained Zajac. “These individuals and their activities had a crippling effect on this whole area.”
The Hobb’s Act is a law named after a congressman from Alabama in the 1940’s, which allows federal authorities to help local police with crimes that interfere with commerce.