‘Career criminal’ stops running, owns up to interstate spree of terror

Even when the law finally caught up to Jose Figueroa, not far from the white Cadillac Escalade he’d crashed into a Port Authority police vehicle at George Washington Bridge, he wasn’t done trying to run from it.

Luis Figueroa 

A “career criminal” with 39 arrests dating back to 1997, he’d already traversed the width of the state, investigators said, leaving behind a trail of traumatized victims and destroyed property stretching from Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal country to downtown Paterson.

Figueroa finally called it quits on Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to assault, kidnapping, arson and a weapons offense under an agreement with prosecutors that would see him sentenced to 26 years in federal prison.

Over the course of one day in June 2014, investigators said, the now 37-year-old Bronx resident assaulted two people with a shotgun in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, forcing one of the victims — a woman — into an SUV before heading for the New Jersey state line.

Investigators said Figueroa sexually assaulted her twice before she was able to escape with the vehicle after he stopped and got out at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

But Figueroa wasn’t done, investigators said.

Stranded at a visitor’s center along Interstate 80, he assaulted a National Park Service employee and stole their minivan before driving to Paterson.

There, according to a federal criminal complaint filed by an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he used a borrowed gas can to set fire to a car dealership office, “setting himself on fire in the process.”

After extinguishing the blaze with a garden hose and stealing a new ride — a white Cadillac Escalade — Figueroa continued on to the George Washington Bridge, where he collided with the police SUV after attempting to evade arresting officers. They finally tackled him after he ran from the vehicle, the complaint states.

In exchange for his guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed to dismiss additional charges of aggravated sexual abuse and brandishing a gun during a violent crime, court records show.

Figueroa’s sentencing is scheduled for July 19.

Thomas Moriarty may be reached at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

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