Six men face federal charges in connection with a string of takeover-style robberies at cell phone stores in five Southern California cities earlier this year, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
The spate of crimes took place between March and September at cell phone stores in Long Beach, Fullerton, Chino, Victorville and Beaumont, according to U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Ciaran McEvoy.
The defendants are accused of “holding store employees at gunpoint, sometimes zip-tying them, then stealing a total of nearly $200,000 worth of electronic devices and cellular telephones,” McEvoy said in a written statement.
“In total, the defendants allegedly stole approximately $191,053 in cell phones and electronic devices, and approximately $2,434 in cash,” he said.
Anthony Wimbley, 27, of Irvine; his brother Darron Wimbley, 28, of Fontana; Robert Wimbley, 26, of Pomona, who is a cousin to Anthony and Darron Wimbley; Edward Eugene Robinson, 48, of Long Beach; Djovonte Lewis, 22, of Pomona; and Aaron Tremmell Hardick, 32, of Fort Wort, Texas are named in the five-count indictment, which was unsealed Tuesday, authorities said. The indictment alleges conspiracy to interfere with commerce, two counts of interfering with commerce and two count of using a firearm during a crime of violence.
Anthony Wimbley appeared in federal court in Riverside Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to all charges, McEvoy said. He was ordered released on an $80,000 bond. Robert and Darron Wimbley appeared in court Tuesday and were ordered detained pending further proceedings.
Lewis was being held in local custody, while while Robinson and Hardick were in custody in Texas, authorities said.
Prosecutors said the crew terrorized employees during the robberies and specifically tried to target cell phones that were not fitted with tracking devices.
“For example, on August 19, Hardrick and two unidentified co-conspirators, wearing masks and with one of them brandishing a handgun, stole approximately $65,000 worth of electronic devices and cellular telephones from a Sprint store in Victorville,” McEvoy said. “During the robbery, one of the store’s employees was bound with zip-ties and was forced to lay on the ground.”
The investigation was spearheaded by the FBI, in partnership with numerous Southern California law enforcement agencies.
Each allegation of interfering with commerce under the Hobbs Act carries a potential maximum sentence 20 years in federal prison, officials said. Each count of brandishing a firearm during a violent crime carries a possible maximum penalty of life in prison.
Trial is scheduled for Dec. 17.