Champean, 46, of Suitland pleaded guilty to his role in the May 17, 2010, plot and killing, the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria announced Monday. The slaying grabbed headlines as Brar family members hailed Cardona, a father of two from Guatemala, as a “guardian angel” who saved their lives.
Champean, set to be sentenced in March, could spend the rest of his life in prison.
The attempted robbery was planned by Champean and another man authorities have not named, according to an indictment.
Champean and Reynard Lazaro Prather of Oxon Hill met in Prince George’s County and drove to a shopping center in Virginia, where they picked up the third man, according to court documents.
During the drive, Champean enlisted Prather in the plot to rob the Brar family, which owned several check-cashing stores in Northern Virginia, court documents show. Champean thought the business’s proceeds were kept at the Centreville home and told Prather his take would be at least $50,000.
Champean gave Prather a duffel bag with a semiautomatic pistol, according to court records; Champean had a similar gun. They also had flex handcuffs and a Taser, according to an indictment.
The third man dropped off Champean and Prather near the Centreville home, according to court records, and they saw their target depart. They slipped into the garage through an open door, intending to wait until he returned — but Cardona and the homeowner’s son found them.
Sources later told The Washington Post that Cardona jumped on one of the men and wrested his gun away. The other turned his gun on the mother of the family and threatened to kill her if Cardona did not return the gun, the sources said. Cardona complied, and one of the men shot him before both fled.
In February, Prather pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a robbery, use of a firearm in a crime of violence and use of a firearm in a crime of violence causing death. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison in June.
“Without Jose, I firmly believe I would not be alive right now,” family member Robbie Brar said at the time. “In a situation where most people probably run away, not only did he not run away, but he stood strong to protect people that are not related to him. He’s a guardian angel.”
Champean’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.