A Moreno Valley man who masterminded at least 15 armed robberies of AutoZone stores across the Inland Empire — stealing about $11,000 in cash — pleaded guilty to federal charges Monday, authorities said.
Daeon Raishawn Cox is being held in federal custody and faces up to 27 years in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 7, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He will spend at least seven years in prison since that’s the mandatory minimum sentence.
Cox, 21, struck a plea deal with prosecutors in which he admitted to robbing several retail stores at gunpoint spanning a time last year between Sept. 5 and Dec. 13. Federal officials have described him as a ringleader in the series of heists.
Authorities said he was caught when an attempted robbery at one store was disrupted by Fontana police late last year.
According to federal prosecutors, police had been conducting surveillance on the Fontana store on Dec. 12, 2018, when Cox and his co-defendants — Dashon Raymond White, 25, and Jada Shardae Allen, 19, — tried robbing the business.
They later led officers on a high-speed freeway chase before crashing and trying to run from the scene.
Police have said the chase ended in Rancho Cucamonga and investigators later recovered a loaded AR-15 style rifle that was thrown from the vehicle during the pursuit.
Before the three were taken into custody, authorities said they led a crime spree across the I.E. that started on March 21, 2018. They were indicted by a federal grand jury on March 1.
Two of them were masked when they entered an AutoZone store in San Jacinto that day and held an employee at gunpoint using an AR-15 style assault rifle while stealing cash from the store, police said shortly after they were arrested in December 2018.
While the charges against Cox related to at least 15 robberies, Riverside Police Sgt. Trinidad Lomeli has told KTLA investigators believe more than 30 AutoZones across San Bernardino and Riverside counties were robbed the same way.
“Typically, the robbers entered the AutoZone stores at night, wearing black hoodies, black pants, gloves and with their faces covered by bandanas,” federal prosecutors said when announcing the three being indicted in March.
Prosecutors said the thieves would then hold employees at gunpoint — an approach they used in several heists including one on Dec. 5, 2018, just days before they were arrested.
Cox went inside an AutoZone store in Redlands armed with an AR-style assault rifle that day and pointed the gun at employees while forcing one of them to give him about $1,500 of the store’s money. One of his co-conspirators had scouted the store hours earlier to find its safe and waited in the getaway vehicle while Cox robbed the store.
Cox admitted to this account of the December robbery in the plea agreement he reached with prosecutors, according to the DOJ.
He has entered guilty pleas for charges of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
White pleaded guilty to the same charges on July 1 and also faces a statutory maximum sentence of 27 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 23, according to prosecutors. Meanwhile, Allen’s trial is scheduled for Oct. 8.
A fourth juvenile suspect was also believed to have been involved, police said last year.
Authorities have said the robberies also targeted stores in the cities of Grand Terrace, Riverside, Menifee, Jurupa Valley, Perris, Hemet, San Bernardino and Redlands.
The FBI was assisted in its investigation by agencies including the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and police departments in Fontana, Riverside, Hemet, Redlands and Moreno Valley.