Madison County man pleads guilty to federal robbery charges

A Madison County man has pleaded guilty to federal robbery charges in a gas-station robbery last fall.

Shawn Bequette, 23, pleaded guilty Friday to robbery under the Hobbs Act, which allows certain felonies to be prosecuted in federal court rather than the local courts.

Bequette robbed a Conoco Phillips gas station in Pontoon Beach on Oct. 6, 2014, taking about $246 from the register and about $28 from the clerk’s wallet. According to law enforcement, witnesses to the crime pursued Bequette as he left the gas station and subdued him before police arrived. Officials could not say whether he was armed at the time.

James Porter, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said this case is part of U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton’s effort to expand use of the Hobbs Act to fight robberies in the region. The Hobbs Act allows for certain criminal cases to be prosecuted as federal crimes in cases of extortion or ongoing conspiracies, or in cases that interfere with interstate commerce. It’s the latter part that made this case eligible for the Hobbs Act, Porter said.

“Most of these stores get their goods through interstate commerce, and their funds go back into interstate commerce,” Porter said. “When these cases occur, our office in conjunction with the appropriate state’s attorney’s office — in this case the Madison County State’s Attorney — decides where we can make the biggest impact.”

In circuit court, Bequette could have been charged with robbery, a Class 2 felony punishable by 3 to 7 years, or aggravated robbery, a Class 1 felony punishable by 4 to 15 years.

Bequette is ordered held without bail pending his sentencing hearing, which is set for Sept. 24 before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael Reagan. He faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and up to 3 years of probation following release. A pre-sentencing investigation will take place before sentencing.