MINNEAPOLIS — Earlier today in federal court in St. Paul, a 21–year–old Inver Grove Heights man was sentenced in connection with the June 14, 2011, armed robberies of SuperAmerica stores in Maplewood and White Bear Lake. United States District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank sentenced Joseph Laurence Forliti to 108 months in prison on two counts of interference with commerce by robbery, pursuant to the Hobbs Act. Forliti was indicted on August 8, 2011, and pleaded guilty on November 9, 2011.
In his plea agreement, Forliti admitted that on June 14, he and another man entered a SuperAmerica store in Maplewood. Forliti also admitted that he ran behind the check–out counter, pointed a BB–gun at the store clerk and demanded the clerk open the cash register. Once the register was opened, Forliti admitted he stole approximately $200, using the gun to compel the clerk to relinquish the cash. In addition, Forliti admitted that same day, the two men stole approximately $200 from a SuperAmerica store in White Bear Lake in the same manner.
According to a law enforcement affidavit filed in the case, the two masked men robbed the Maplewood store at approximately midnight. The White Bear Lake store was robbed shortly after 4 a.m. At 5:15 a.m., a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy observed two men near a wooded area close to the White Bear Lake store. The men matched the descriptions of the robbers. The deputy apprehended the men and recovered $181 in cash from Forliti’s pockets. His accomplice is being prosecuted in Ramsey County in connection with the White Bear Lake robbery.
The Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, allows federal prosecutors to prosecute violent, habitual criminals who commit armed robbery in places of business involved in interstate commerce. Federal prosecution of these cases is sometimes beneficial since the penalties are often tougher than under state law. Furthermore, because the federal system has no parole, those who receive federal sentences serve virtually the entire time imposed.
This case was the result of an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the sheriff offices of Ramsey and Washington counties, and the police departments of Maplewood and White Bear Lake. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie E. Allyn.