Luis Cintron, 39, was indicted Friday on federal charges that he and an accomplice - still on the lam - stuck up 15 markets at gunpoint this past winter.
Federal investigators were already closing in on Cintron when state troopers pulled him over for a traffic infraction last month - he was driving down Rte. 16 in Everett with a phone in front of his face, as if he were texting - according to an affidavit by an FBI agent on the case, who added that once they got to his door, troopers also spotted evidence that he was coked up as well, in the form of white powder around his mouth.
Now he faces 15 counts of interfering with commerce by robbery and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, the US Attorney's office reports.
Cintron and his accomplice typically wore masks during the holdups, which included stick ups at Anthony's Market, 407 Meridian St., at 10:05 p.m. on Dec. 28; the J&K Market, 140 Princeton St., at 10:55 p.m. on Jan. 2; and Two Brothers Market, 24 Marion St. at 10:05 p.m. on Jan. 24, according to an affidavit by an FBI agent assigned to the case.
Cintron and the other guy also held up markets in Lynn, Chelsea, Everett and Malden, authorities say. The two had a preference for holding up two stores on their robbery nights, an hour apart in different communities, according to the affidavit.
In the Anthony's robbery, one of the two came behind one clerk, raked his gun behind him, then ordered him to his knees - and to not to look at his face. They took $3,200 from the register and $450 from the clerk, but failed to break open a state lottery machine.
In the J&K robbery, the pair not only ordered a clerk to the ground and took money out of the register, they robbed a customer of his wallet, according to the FBI.
At Two Brothers, they took roughly $2,000 from the register and five packs of Newport 100 cigarettes.
According to the affidavitt, it was the Two Brothers heist that provided evidence that led authorities to Cintron - a nearby surveillance camera captured a late-model, silver Nissan Murano being driven away from the scene, similar to the vehicle being seen driven away from other robberies.
Lynn Police were eventually able to track the car to Enterprise Rent-a-Car; a search of the car found a 9-mm cartridge that bore a manufacturer's stamp identical to the one on a shell casing recovered at a Lynn store where a clerk chased the two, at least until one of them shot at him - but missed.
Enterprise surveillance video showed Cintron accompanying the person who rented the car; in fact, the video showed Cintron driving the car to and from the rental lot, the affidavit says.
The affidavit continues that Cintron was arrested in a traffic stop on March 9 on Rte. 16 in Everett by two state troopers. The troopers initially stopped Cintron because they spotted him driving, around 9:35 p.m., with a phone in front of his face, as if he were texting while driving. By the time they were done, troopers found a bag in his pocket believed to contain cocaine, a gun holster with a knife in it, a box for a 9-mm gun with an empty magazine inside that; Cintron was arrested on a variety of motor-vehicle, gun and drug charges.