Seven people are facing federal charges in connection with 15 armed robberies of pharmacies across Southern California, including a 24-year-old Lynwood man believed to be the ringleader, authorities said Friday.
Tyrome Lewis, a.k.a. “Boobie,” has been described by federal prosecutors as the leader of a robbery crew that stole prescription medications from mom-and-pop shops, particularly oxycodone, to sell on the black market. The robbers would allegedly threaten employees at gunpoint and take away their phones to keep them from calling 911.
A federal grand jury returned an eight-count superseding indictment Friday outlining the charges against Lewis, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
He is being held without bond as he was previously arrested and charged, and he is expected to be arraigned on Aug. 22.
According to federal prosecutors, he led robberies of pharmacies in 13 cities across Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange counties over an 18-month span. The crimes ended just a few weeks ago and other suspects in the case have already been charged, authorities said.
Lewis is accused of selecting the robbery locations and explaining key details to the other suspects, such as what medications to steal. Prosecutors said he oversaw the heists as they were committed.
He also allegedly traveled to the locations ahead of time to scout the stores.
The robberies shared a “common modus operandi,” according to federal prosecutors, as the suspects would consistently target smaller pharmacies and do many of the same actions during the heists.
This included “placing the stolen prescription drugs into the pharmacy’s trash bags or trash cans, using a black semi-automatic handgun to threaten and intimidate store employees, forcing employees to open the medication vault, and taking the store employees’ cell phones to prevent them from immediately calling police,” according to a news release from the DOJ.
Among the cities and neighborhoods where stores were targeted are Cerritos, Pico Rivera, Westminster, Huntington Park, Bellflower, South Los Angeles, Hawthorne, Anaheim, Glendale, Claremont, Paramount and Riverside.
The indictment alleges Lewis was also involved in a January 2018 burglary of a Walgreens pharmacy in Anthony, Texas.
He faces charges including one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, two counts of interference with commerce by robbery, two counts of possession with intent to distribute oxycodone and two counts of knowingly using and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, according to federal prosecutors.
Darrell Mitchell, a 29-year-old fugitive from Long Beach, was previously charged in the case and faces conspiracy, narcotics and firearms offenses, prosecutors said.
Two other alleged co-conspirators, 31-year-old Terrell Mitchell (Darrell Mitchell’s brother) and 29-year-old Deandre Bonney, were charged in the initial indictment. Both defendants are Compton residents.
Both Terrell Mitchell and Bonney have signed plea agreements admitting to being involved in the robbery of a pharmacy in Glendale in December 2018, prosecutors said.
They were not named in the most recent indictment but federal authorities said they are expected to enter guilty pleas in September.
Lewis and Mitchell each would face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison if convicted of all charges.
Another three suspected co-conspirators were charged in a separate indictment, including Aaron Ganner, 27, Karon Lofton, 28, and Devon Jackson, 30, who are all Compton residents.
The three were indicted for their alleged roles in the robbery of a pharmacy in Torrance on June 12, and they were arraigned in U.S. District Court on Thursday.
They were ordered to be held without bond, with a trial was scheduled for Oct. 8.
The case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Torrance Police Department.