26 charged in string of Harris County cell phone store robberies

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Authorities arrested and charged 26 people after a string of cell phone store robberies across Harris County, officials announced today.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office says among those arrested, 54 felony charges were filed, ranging from aggravated robbery, engaging in organized criminal activity, and aggravated assault on a peace officer. Six misdemeanors were also filed.

The robberies happened as far away as Louisiana and across Harris County, including Kingwood and the Heights. We've learned in one of the robberies, a man fired shots at a Houston police officer.

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The joint law enforcement effort, called Operation Can You Hear Me Now?, was coordinated by Houston police and the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

The robberies, according to authorities, had a ringleader and a right hand man who recruited people to rob the stores. The sheriff's office says there are connections to the Crips and Fifth Ward gang members.

Sgt. M. Alvarado says, "Of course, every time you've got a gun pointed at you, it's definitely (traumatic)...so obviously a lot of people were victimized by this -- not just the employees, but the customers that were inside the stores at the time."

Investigators say those charged range in age from 14-24 years old and they escaped with merchandise worth between $42,000 to $67,000. Authorities say on average the people who were recruited got about $1,000 for going into a cell phone store with a gun and robbing the place.

HCSO says they're continuing to investigate and that others may be involved and more arrests may be made. null
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