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Accomplice in 4 Gunpoint Robberies of Drivers Sent to State Prison

August 9, 2016



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Matthew Weintraub, 215.340.8159, mdweintraub@buckscounty.org

A Bensalem woman was sentenced Monday to serve 30 months to eight years in state prison for her role in four gunpoint robberies late last year.

Mellissa Hammond, 29, had pleaded guilty on March 14 in Bucks County Common Pleas Court to four counts of robbery and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, all first-degree felonies.

Hammond admitted assisting or conspiring with her former boyfriend, Matthew Mirante, 28, in the robberies of three taxi drivers and a pizza delivery man during a five-day period in November. Mirante was sentenced in June to a five- to 15-year prison term.

The couple said they committed the robberies to support their heroin addictions. Hammond already had served state time for a 2010 drug conviction.  

“You’re obviously not the primary player” in the robberies, Judge C. Theodore Fritsch Jr. told Hammond before imposing the sentence. Still, he said, the robberies were “very serious offenses that had a profound impact on these individuals.”

At about 3:30 a.m. on Nov. 20, Mirante put a gun to the head of Carl Graser Jr., a cab driver who had answered a call to pick up a man named “Josh” at the Park Avenue Apartments in Bensalem. Mirante, who had placed the call, demanded Graser’s keys, cell phone and wallet, which contained $120, before fleeing.

Two days later, at about 8 p.m., Hammond placed a delivery call to Domino’s Pizza, identifying herself as “Michelle.” The driver, Nasir Latif Mian, tried unsuccessfully to deliver the pizza to an apartment at the Park Avenue complex before Mirante robbed him on his way back to his vehicle. Mirante brandished a gun, demanded money and Mian’s phone, and escaped with $80 and the GPS device from Mian’s vehicle.

On Nov. 23, Mirante robbed another cab driver at gunpoint in the 1000 block of Cedar Avenue in Bensalem at about 10 p.m. The driver, Mushtak Ahmed, was approached by Hammond, who asked if he was the driver who had been summoned to the address. Mirante then appeared from behind her, pointed the gun at Ahmed, and took about $200, the driver’s cell phone and the key to his vehicle.

The fourth robbery occurred in the 3400 block of Parkside Avenue in Huntingdon Valley at about 3:45 a.m. on Nov. 25. Cab driver Abdelghani Elbaad told police that he was approached by a man identifying himself as “Josh,” who pointed a gun at him. Mirante demanded money and escaped with $20 and the driver’s wallet, which contained his identification and credit cards.

Elbaad was able to provide police with a license plate number for the car in which Mirante and Hammond escaped. Police arrested the two later that day after locating them at the apartment of Mirante’s mother.

The handgun later was determined to be a BB gun, but Fritsch said the victims had no way of knowing that when they were being robbed. “They could have thought it was their last minute alive,” he told Hammond in court.

Hammond told Fritsch that she had been staying away from drugs and working fulltime before beginning a relationship with Mirante. She said she had been using heroin for three to four months before the robberies and was “desperate” for money to support her habit.

“I’m sorry for the role that I played in this,” she said. “We really didn’t mean to hurt anyone, emotionally or physically.”

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said he understood Hammond’s struggles with addiction and her need for treatment, but argued that she should go to state prison because of her prior record and the seriousness of her crimes.

“They needed money to feed their drug habits, (and) Ms. Hammond was not only in agreement, but she was complicit” in turning to robbery to raise that money, Weintraub said.

Fritsch directed that Hammond have no contact with any of her four victims, and that she and Mirante jointly pay a total of $1,500 in restitution to two of them. He ordered that Hammond undergo substance abuse and mental health screenings, and recommended that she be placed in a therapeutic program in prison to help her overcome her drug addiction.   

 Approved for release by Robert James, Deputy District Attorney.

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