A crew of armed robbers began hitting convenience stores in the Milwaukee area last fall, always brandishing a rifle with a scope. Dubbed “the rifle robberies,” they were investigated by several jurisdictions, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Eventually six men were charged with nine robberies in federal court, where they face stiffer penalties if convicted. The case is among a growing number of federal cases in Milwaukee and around the U.S. where federal agents and prosecutors are using the weight of federal law to go after typically state crimes.
Many are prosecuted under the Hobbs Act, a World War II-era law aimed at union racketeering and organized crime. Named for U.S. Rep. Sam Hobbs (D-Al.), it recently has been used against armed robbers who steal from businesses. Federal law enforcers use the Hobbs Act to go after robbers of all sorts. The cases fall under federal jurisdiction because goods inside a store such as a pharmacy, mini-mart, or tavern crossed state lines to get there. The Hobbs Act gun charge count brings the greatest potential prison time. Robbers convicted of brandishing a gun qualify for a mandatory minimum of seven years. If they fire the gun, the mandatory minimum is 10 years.