Brooklyn, NY - August 20, 2014 - Alejo Polanco was sentenced today to 27 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release by United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. In August 2013, following a two-week trial, Polanco and co-defendant Emilino Vasquez were convicted of all counts against them, including participating in a ten-year conspiracy to commit armed home invasion robberies and to traffic in heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. In addition, Polanco and Vasquez were convicted of the June 2001 murder of Liliana Colmenares in Manhattan. On June 20, 2014, Vasquez was sentenced to 22 years’ incarceration for his role in the offense.
The sentences were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and James J. Hunt, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Division.
“Polanco, Vasquez, and their associates thought they had gotten away with murder,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “For years, these defendants committed brazen armed robberies that terrorized our city. Thanks to the diligent efforts of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force’s experienced investigators, those responsible for this brutal murder have been brought to justice.”
Polanco and Vasquez were members of a violent robbery crew responsible for numerous robberies of narcotics traffickers in the New York metropolitan area. The crew often received inside information regarding the location of narcotics and money stashes, and then performed extensive surveillance of their intended targets before robbing them at gunpoint. The crew targeted narcotics traffickers because they were unlikely to call the police or cooperate with law enforcement investigations. Altogether, Polanco, Vasquez, and their co-conspirators stole hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds.
In the spring of 2001, the crew received information from a member of an international drug trafficking organization that there was a large quantity of heroin stored in an apartment located on Fort Washington Avenue in upper Manhattan. For months, the conspirators performed surveillance of the apartment and its occupants. On June 10, 2001, six members of the crew, including Polanco and Vasquez, assembled in the vicinity of the apartment. Communicating with each other via radio, they watched as the male occupant of the apartment briefly left the apartment to walk to a restaurant. When he returned, three members of the crew, including Polanco, each of whom was armed with a handgun, attempted to force their way into the apartment. A struggled ensued, and several shots were fired. Liliana Colmenares, a Colombian national who resided in the apartment and was unarmed, approached Polanco and briefly struggled with him. Polanco then shot Colmenares in the face, causing her to bleed to death within minutes. Colmenares was approximately five months pregnant at the time of her death.
After the shooting, the conspirators fled the scene in two vehicles, one of which was driven by Vasquez. The murder remained unsolved for several years until agents and investigators in the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force identified several suspects and ultimately solved the case.
Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force which comprises agents and officers from the DEA, New York City Police Department and New York State Police for their extraordinary assistance in this lengthy investigation.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel Silver, Soumya Dayananda, and Nathan Reilly.