Three defendants sentenced to total of nearly 70 years for violent scrap metal yard robbery

Three defendants charged in connection with the violent 2014 robbery of an Elizabeth scrap metal yard have been sentenced to a total of nearly 70 years in prison, acting Union County Prosecutor Thomas K. Isenhour announced today.

State Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch on Friday sentenced Rafael Clemmons, 30, of Irvington to 25 years in state prison while Steven Chambers, 32, and Sharod Saunders, 43, both of Newark, received terms of 22 years apiece.

On April 18, 2014, Elizabeth Police Department patrol units responded to the Bayway Scrap Metal yard on Amboy Avenue to find multiple victims who reported that they had just been held hostage by several men wearing gloves, overalls, and masks while brandishing three handguns and an assault rifle, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Jeremiah Lenihan, who prosecuted the case.

The defendants first physically assaulted and threatened the business owner and her husband, both of whom were in their 60s, before binding them and four others in the store at their hands and feet with zip ties as the defendants stole their personal property, including wallets and cash, Lenihan said. While the six victims then were held captive for approximately 90 minutes – one customer pistol-whipped until he fell unconscious, the others told that they were “going to die together” – the defendants loaded more than 600 catalytic converters valued at approximately $100,000 into a rented commercial vehicle. They then fled the area in that vehicle and a stolen pickup truck taken from the parking lot outside.

Moments later, the defendants were spotted by police heading northbound on U.S. Routes 1&9, resulting in a brief pursuit. After the defendants’ vehicles crashed, one colliding with a police vehicle, four of the five defendants were arrested and transported to Union County Jail on $1 million bail apiece. The fifth defendant, 28-year-old Anthony Brailsford of Irvington, remained at large until he was arrested in February 2017.

Earlier this year Brailsford was sentenced to eight years in state prison for his role in the robbery, while 25-year-old Michael Howard of Newark received a term of 10 years. All five defendants must serve at least 85 percent of their terms before the possibility of parole under the provisions of New Jersey’s No Early Release Act.