Houston-Soto Aggravated Robbery: Unveiling a Web of Crime

Houston, Texas – The convergence of technology and relentless investigative efforts once again proved instrumental in dismantling a series of violent crimes that gripped Houston. The tale of the Houston-Soto Aggravated Robbery showcases how law enforcement, aided by cutting-edge tools like the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), cracks cases, brings criminals to justice, and ensures safer streets for all.

A Sequence of Violence Unfolds

The timeline begins on January 11, 2019, with the ATF Crime Gun Strike Force receiving a critical NIBIN Referral (N19HPD0057) from the NIBIN National Correlation Training Center (NNCTC). This referral was assigned to ATF SA Speer and ATF FO Bonnette, igniting a meticulous investigation into a chain of events that rattled the community.

The starting point was an aggravated robbery on December 6, 2018, with subsequent links to two more convenience store robberies on January 9, 2019. These incidents were marked by a common thread: the discovery of spent .40 caliber cartridge casings. Each casing was subjected to IBIS imaging and NIBIN analysis, eventually revealing that the same firearm had been used in all three crimes, which was not yet in custody.

Clues Emerge Amidst Chaos

Amidst the uncertainty, investigators stumbled upon a potential breakthrough. A victim of one of the robberies, shot in the chest, disclosed a connection to a person named "Carla," suggesting a possible setup. Yet, the puzzle pieces remained scattered, with no leads or suspects at this juncture.

The intricate web expanded on February 1, 2019, with the emergence of a separate NIBIN lead. .40 caliber cartridge casings tied an aggravated assault and a shots fired incident to a white Chrysler 300. While the shooter's identity remained elusive, the casings unified these events. It was a revelation that foreshadowed greater revelations.

Unmasking the Culprits

The turning point arrived on February 3, 2019, as Houston Police Department (HPD) Officers responded to a trespassing call. The suspect vehicle, a white Chrysler 300 with stolen license plates, belonged to Jonathan Soto, a 20-25-year-old male known to be armed. Soto's link to the crimes deepened as a complainant positively identified him from a photo lineup related to the December 6, 2018, aggravated robbery. This marked the moment when the tide began to turn against the perpetrators.

Following his arrest on February 19, 2019, Soto confessed to his involvement in the aggravated robberies, shedding light on four co-conspirators: Carlos Cerda, Raul Aguirre, Leonardo Barboza, and Lizette Plancarte. These revelations spurred a cascade of confessions. Lizette Plancarte admitted to orchestrating the setup that led to the shooting during the December 6, 2018, robbery. The path to justice was unfolding.

Justice Prevails

Fast forward to March 2, 2021, and Jonathan Soto's reckoning arrived. In the Southern Judicial District of Texas, he was sentenced to 288 months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. The charges, rooted in this complex investigation, included carjacking (USC 2119) and two counts of discharging a firearm during a Federal Crime of Violence (924c). This outcome stands as a testament to the collaborative efforts of the Houston Crime Gun Strike Force, NIBIN, and Commercial Robbery Groups.

The Houston-Soto Aggravated Robbery case epitomizes the symbiosis of law enforcement and technology in battling crime's multifaceted challenges. As the dust settles and justice prevails, this chapter underscores the pivotal role of tireless dedication, sophisticated tools, and unwavering commitment to creating a safer society for all.



To read the original Press Release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Texas, visit DOJ Press Release. For more information on the ATF’s NIBIN program and its impact on crime-solving, visit ATF NIBIN. To learn more about IBIS, the technology that underpins the NIBIN program and allows local law enforcement agencies to access NIBIN and leverage its investigative potential, visit IBIS Access.

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