A Hyattsville man has been sentenced to more than 11 years in prison in connection with a series of violent heists in which a group of men brandishing guns and knives took over businesses and robbed them. Thirty-one-year-old William Ortiz Lazaro admitted to being part of a group that organized to steal money and property from stores and businesses from Silver Spring to Annapolis, according to charging documents.

"This investigation is an excellent example of federal and local law enforcement working together to ensure that criminals like Mr. Ortiz Lazaro are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said William Winter, special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Office of Investigations in Maryland.

According to charging documents, the men staked out their targets, keeping surveillance at the stores and individuals who they believed to be carrying the money from the stores. They figured out the best time to hit the businesses and used weapons to restrain their victims during the robberies, law enforcement officials said.

Ortiz Lazaro admitted in court to participating in two armed commercial robberies, including the Tienda Ramirez store in Templeville on Aug. 7.

Employees and witnesses said a group of men entered the Tienda Ramirez, some with handguns and a shotgun. The men forced the employees to give them the money from the cash register. The gunmen also pointed a gun at two other victims, and forced them to get on the floor and to not look around or they would be shot.

The men stole more than $500 as well as personal items, the fled in a white vehicle, documents said.

Ortiz Lazaro said he had a gun during the robbery, but denied taking it out of his waistband and pointing it at anybody. He said the other robbers did brandish guns at the victims.

Queen Anne's County sheriff's deputies located the car as it was leaving. Ortiz and three other men were inside, along with a loaded shotgun, two loaded handguns, gash and belongings of the victims from the store.

Ortiz Lazaro said he also robbed High's Store in Annapolis two weeks earlier.

He is the fourth member of the group to plead guilty to related charges, prosecutors said. The other three were from Silver Spring. Julio Paredes, 45, of was sentenced to 20 years in prison; Rogelio C. Alfaro, 36, was sentenced to more than 12 years; and Manuel Claros, 24, awaits his punishment.