Pennsylvania resident Romel Catoe, 32, was arrested in Wilkes Barre on Thursday, June 2, and Brooklyn resident Matthew Sanchez, 29, is currently serving a sentence for a state drug conviction in Oklahoma and both were charged with robbery conspiracy, robbery, money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to receive stolen property, according to federal prosecutors.
Catoe and Sanchez stalked two Queens strippers over a period of months and broke into one of the victim’s Woodhaven home twice while her family — including her young children — were at home sleeping. The two men zip-tied the family, brandished firearms, and pointed them at one of the children, according to court documents.
During the first robbery on Jan. 27, 2021, when the woman was away in the Dominican Republic, the defendants allegedly stole $79,000 in cash, proceeds from her work as an exotic dancer, most of which were in singles and luxury handbags worth approximately $100,000.
Catoe and Sanchez returned to the same Woodhaven home on the night of Feb. 5 and brandished firearms and restrained the family with zip-ties and proceeded to search the house. One of the children was able to call 911 and when the NYPD arrived, the defendants fled out the back of the home. One of them dropped his cellphone while scaling a backyard fence, which was recovered by police.
An investigation determined the phone belonged to Catoe and text messages and other data are “evidence of a monthslong conspiracy” with Sanchez and others to rob the Queens strippers. Location data put Catoe and Sanchez at the dancers’ homes and the clubs where they worked in the weeks leading up to the first heist.
Text messages between the defendants show they were aware of the presence of children at the location and they proceeded anyway, court documents show. Catoe transported stolen cash from Queens to Philadelphia where he deposited the cash in an account at a Philadelphia Federal Credit Union 12 hours after the first robbery.
Despite being a convicted felon prohibited from possessing firearms, prosecutors say Catoe had lengthy and detailed discussions with Sanchez regarding the purchase and sale of firearms.
Catoe and Sanchez used “terrifying tactics, including stalking their innocent victims with GPS trackers attached to the victims’ vehicles, threatening and pointing weapons at innocent victims, including children and using zip-ties to subdue victims in the residence,” prosecutors said, adding that the government requested that Catoe be held without bail pending trial as he poses a “serious danger to the community.”