LOS ANGELES – Law enforcement authorities this morning arrested four defendants who are charged in a federal indictment with participating in a conspiracy that planned and executed a series of brazen smash-and-grab robberies that targeted millions of dollars worth of Rolex and other high-end Swiss watches being sold at retail outlets across Southern California.
The indictment charges a total of nine defendants, six of whom allegedly planned and organized the robberies, and three of whom allegedly participated in one or more of the robberies. In addition to four defendants arrested this morning by special agents with ATF and deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, three defendants are already in custody. Authorities are continuing to search for two remaining defendants.
Members of conspiracy allegedly selected jewelry stores based on their inventory of expensive watches, including those manufactured by Rolex, Audemar Piguet and TAG Heuer. The organizers of the conspiracy recruited financially desperate young men to perform the smash-and-grab robberies, often by promising large sums of money if they were successful. However, when those involved in the actual robberies were eventually paid, they often received much less than what they had promised, despite stealing watches and other jewelry worth approximately $6 million.
“The organizers of this ring carefully planned and executed a series of daylight robberies that terrified and endangered store employees and bystanders,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The indictment and arrests today demonstrate that ringleaders cannot escape prosecution by sending lower-level participants in to commit the crimes on their behalf.”
The 13-count indictment, which was returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana on June 8, charges all nine defendants with violating the Hobbs Act by conspiring to interfere with commerce by robbery. The conspiracy count alleges a string of 10 robberies between early August 2015 and April of this year. One heist at a store in the Century City mall allegedly netted watches worth more than $1.6 million and involved one of the robbers firing a shot from a rifle at a security guard who was trying to secure the store.
“Those who plan, equip or facilitate violent crime do not avoid accountability by never brandishing a firearm,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Eric D. Harden. “ATF stands ready to combine resources with our state and local partners to pursue federal criminal charges against all that use violence to victimize businesses and endanger the public that patronizes them, regardless of their role.”
“This is a fine example of another successful collaborative effort between the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Bureau and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” said Captain Myron Johnson of the LASD’s Major Crimes Bureau. “Investigators from both agencies worked countless hours to bring several individuals who operated a highly sophisticated robbery crew to justice. This crew victimized a number of luxury, high-end watch establishments causing millions of dollars in losses to the victims.”
The nine defendants are each charged in at least one of six counts alleging a Hobbs Act robbery. Five of the defendants are charged in at least one of six counts of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
The nine defendants named in the indictment are:
- Darrell Dent, 39, of Inglewood, who was arrested and who is accused of being the leader of the conspiracy;
- Keith Walton, 45, of Los Angeles, another key figure in the conspiracy, who was already in federal custody on an unrelated charge;
- Robert Johnson, 27, of Inglewood, who was arrested and who allegedly recruited robbers and supplied firearms used during several of the robberies;
- Stanley Ford, 47, of Los Angeles, who was arrested and who is accused of being an organizer of the robberies;
- Justin Henning, 28, of Inglewood, who was arrested and who allegedly helped recruit some of the robbers;
- Evan Scott, 27, of Inglewood, currently a fugitive, who allegedly was a gunman in two of the robberies;
- Kenneth Paul, 21, of Los Angeles, currently a fugitive, who allegedly helped recruit robbers;
- Jameson Laforest, 24, of Inglewood, who was already in state custody on an unrelated charge and who allegedly received watches stolen during a robbery in Torrance; and
- Marshawn Marshall, 18, of Inglewood, who was already in federal custody after being arrested in March 2016 on charges of participating in a jewelry store robbery in Mission Viejo.
Those arrested this morning are expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
According to the indictment, the organizers planned the details of the robberies, including selecting the display cases to be smashed, and providing the firearms, tools, disguises and stolen cars used in the robberies.
The conspiracy count in the indictment alleges that 10 robberies were committed:
- the August 3, 2015 robbery of Edward George Jewelers in Canoga Park, during which approximately $59,105 in watches and engagement rings were stolen;
- the August 24, 2015 armed robbery of Rolex Boutique Geary’s in the Century City Mall, during which 40 Rolex watches with an approximate retail value of $1.63 million were stolen;
- the October 21, 2015 armed robbery of Frederic H. Rubel Jewelers in the Shops at Mission Viejo, during which 40 Rolex watches and David Yurman jewelry with an approximate retail value of $595,000 were stolen;
- the January 22, 2016 armed robbery of Manya Jewelry in Woodland Hills, during which three Rolex watches and other assorted watches and jewelry with an approximately retail value of $192,410 were stolen;
- the February 7, 2016 robbery of Ben Bridge Jewelers in the Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks, during which 35 Rolex watches with an approximate retail value of $298,00 were stolen;
- the February 17, 2016 armed robbery of Westime in West Hollywood, during which 18 Audemars Piguet watches with an approximately retail value of $576,200 were stolen;
- the February 29, 2016 armed robbery of Ben Bridge Jewelers in the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, during which 30 Rolex watches with an approximate retail value of $456,325 were stolen;
- the March 9, 2016 armed robbery of Ben Bridge Jewelers in Canoga Park, during which 36 Rolex watches with an approximate retail value of $662,650 were stolen;
- the March 22, 2016 robbery of Westime in Malibu, during which 66 Audermar Piguet, Breitling, Franck Muller, Omega and Hublot watches with an approximate retail value of $1.42 million were stolen; and
- the April 24, 2016 robbery of Ben Bridge Jewelers in Santa Monica, during which three Rolex watches and other assorted watches and jewelry with an approximate retail value of $192,000 were stolen.
Along with the nine defendants named in the indictment unsealed today, another nine defendants were previously named in a series of indictments that accuse them of participating in various jewelry store robberies.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The seven counts that allege violations of the Hobbs Act each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. The charges that allege use of a firearm during the robberies carry a consecutive sentence of seven years, or 10 years if the gun is discharged during the underlying offense.
The investigation into the robbery ring is being conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The cases resulting from the investigation are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Scott D. Tenley of the Santa Ana Branch Office and Jeffrey M. Chemerinsky of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.