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Central figures in 2017 Glenville gun store heist say heist happened on whim

Central figures in 2017 Glenville gun store heist say heist happened on whim

Central figures in 2017 Glenville gun store heist say heist happened on whim
Police investigate a burglary at Target Sports Inc., on Oct. 23, 2017
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

ALBANY - The two central figures in the 2017 Glenville gun store heist that put dozens of guns out onto the streets say the heist happened spur-of-the-moment.

The men, through their attorneys, gave the account in filings ahead of their sentencings.

One man, Christian Roman, 24, of Schenectady, was sentenced Thursday to more than 12 years in prison. The other, Jose Fontanez, 36, also of Schenectady, has yet to be sentenced and faces up to 30 years in prison.

While the attorney accounts agreed on the lack of planning, they gave differing accounts on how the idea came to be: Roman's didn't address where it came from, but suggested it to be a joint decision after a Fontanez argument with another person; Fontanez called it Roman's idea, one that came while partying and doing drugs.

Regardless of how the heist happened, prosecutors say the impact was vast: More than half of the 60-plus weapons spirited out of Target Sports in Glenville have yet to be recovered.

"The government urges the Court to impose a substantial sentence in this case," Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Myers wrote ahead of Roman's sentencing, "to send a strong message that breaking into a federally-licensed firearms dealer, pushing dozens of firearms into the hands of criminals, and then fleeing law enforcement - resulting in a massive manhunt that consumed enormous law enforcement resources and put law enforcement lives at risk - will not be tolerated."

Fontanez and Roman were arrested within two weeks of the Oct. 22-23, 2017, overnight break-in. The men broke a store window sometime after the business closed on Oct. 22 and made several trips into the building, taking the guns, ammunition and other property, prosecutors have said.

Security cameras captured the suspects on video, but no alarm sounded. Owners have said early tests didn't find a cause for that failure, and police have previously said they believe the suspects essentially got lucky.

Some of the guns were recovered in Schenectady and others in Rochester, officials said in April 2018. The prosecution's filing ahead of Roman's sentencing, however, confirmed little progress since then in recovering the outstanding weapons.

Roman's sentencing came after others involved in the heist or aftermath have already been sentenced. Only Fontanez and another man remain to be sentenced.

The Roman and Fontanez defense filings, each written to argue for leniency, are among the first public accounts of how they say the heist came to be. 

Roman's account, written by his attorney Samuel C. Breslin in an unsuccessful bid for a sentence of as little as 5 years, 9 months, told of the heist growing out of an effort by Roman to diffuse an argument between Fontanez and Fontanez' wife over money and get Fontanez out of that situation.

"While driving through Schenectady County, and without any plan in mind, they spontaneously decided to steal some guns," Breslin wrote of Roman and Fontanez. "Their lack of a plan is palpable, particularly in light of their actions over the ten days between the theft and their arrest - haphazardly trying to store, then get rid of the stolen weapons, all the while considering the very real, yet frightening prospect of turning themselves in."

Breslin wrote that Roman contends he used Xanax that night, but it was his first time using the drug.

Breslin also wrote they did not intend to steal guns when they left the residence that night. "There was no plan, and Christian did not even know about the store he was about to steal from," Breslin wrote.

Fontanez' attorney, John B. Casey, did not reference an argument in Fontanez' account of that night, though Casey's filing only provided what appeared to be a brief synopsis. Instead, Casey described Fontanez as under the influence of drugs at the time of his agreement with Roman to burglarize the store and that the decision was made while partying.

"The point we wish to make is that Jose Fontanez is not a sophisticated and calculating criminal with evil intent," Casey wrote. "Mr. Fontanez clearly went along with Christian Roman's idea, but the criminal plan originated with Roman, not Fontanez."

The prosecution's pre-sentencing filing in Fontanez' case has yet to be filed. But, in the filing for Roman's sentencing, Myers made clear that no credit should be given for any lack of planning.

"The crime was not, as the defendant suggests, the result of a brief lapse of judgment: it was a reckless spree that spanned over a week and put countless lives at risk," Myers wrote.

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