Recently in federal court in St. Paul, a 25-year-old Rochester man was sentenced for the armed robbery of McDonald’s restaurants in Byron, Rochester, and Winona. On December 3, 2012, United States District Judge Donovan W. Frank sentenced Christian Aaron Alexander to 168 months in federal prison on three counts of interference with commerce by robbery, in violation of the Hobbs Act, and one count of discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Alexander, who was charged in a criminal Information on September 8, 2011, pleaded guilty on September 27, 2011.
In his plea agreement, Alexander admitted that he stole money from each restaurant and, in the process, threatened employees with a firearm. On September 19, 2010, Alexander stole approximately $1,882 from the Winona McDonald’s; on June 15, 2011, approximately $1,851 from the Byron McDonald’s; and on June 26, 2011, approximately $2,740 from the Rochester McDonald’s. For the Winona and Byron robberies, Alexander worked with an accomplice, and during the Byron robbery, he discharged a firearm. He also admitted that in all three robberies, he stole personal property belonging to the victims, who were restaurant employees. Moreover, he physically restrained the victims during the robberies by locking them in the restaurants’ walk-in coolers.
A law enforcement affidavit filed in the case states that on September 19, 2010, employees at the Winona McDonald’s reported they had been approached by two masked men as they entered the restaurant shortly after 4:00 a.m. One of the men was armed with a pistol. After obtaining the combination for the safe from an employee, the men opened it, took the employee’s wallets and cell phones, and ordered the employees into the walk-in cooler. When the employees exited the cooler approximately 20 minutes later, the robbers were gone, having stolen money from the safe.
On September 20, 2010, during an unrelated investigation, police found receipts for the purchase of masks similar to those used during the Winona robbery. Surveillance videos at the retail outlet where the masks were purchased show a man, later identified as Alexander, buying those masks.
On June 15, 2011, the Byron McDonald’s was robbed in a similar fashion, in the early morning hours. Then, on June 26, 2011, the Rochester McDonald’s was robbed by Alexander, acting alone. After that robbery, the police traveled to Alexander’s residence, where they found him in his vehicle. Officers also found cash lying on the floor of the back seat. They seized a gun, a plastic bag containing numerous rounds of ammunition, a couple McDonald’s bags, and clothing that matched those worn by the robber in these cases. At that point, Alexander was arrested.
On October 2, 2012, Quiana Shaneea Evans, age 30, of Rochester, Alexander’s female accomplice in the Byron McDonald’s robbery, pleaded guilty to one count of interference with commerce by robbery and one count of aiding and abetting the use, carrying, possessing, and discharging of a firearm. She is pending sentencing in that case. Alexander’s accomplice in the Winona robbery has yet to be arrested.
This case was the result of an investigation by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Rochester and Winona police departments, and the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas M. Hollenhorst.