This January, the Metro PCS store along Little York off the Hardy Toll Road was robbed at gunpoint. On Thursday, federal authorities announced they made multiple arrests on that case. And that was just the beginning.
"This is a significant day because we have arrested five crews in five separate robbery schemes," said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Kenneth Magisdson.
Magidson announced the filing of five criminal complaints charging 22 defendants with either bank robbery or commercial robbery, as well as various firearms charges.
Authorities say the five groups involving seven cases are not related, but they are similar in their violence and brazenness. Four suspects were arrested today, and 17 defendants have been transferred from state custody to federal jail.
Only one suspect, 25-year-old Michael Cornelius, remains on the run.
"I'm very concerned," says a woman who runs a store near one of the robbery locations. "It's very bad around here. Very, very bad, and I'm glad they're doing something about it."
Here are the summary of the five groups charged today, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
In the first case, Cornelious, Kevin Wayne Viser, 37, Fareed Jerrell Barefield, 26, Carey Dion Mitchell, 24, Johnny Ray Jones, 38, and James Leonard Ferguson, 33, all of Houston, are charged with aiding and abetting bank robbery and aiding and abetting the use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. On Aug. 5, 2013, Jones and Ferguson allegedly entered the JP Morgan Chase Bank located at 2929 Shaver Street in Pasadena and ordered customers and employees to the floor at gun point and stole U.S. currency.
In the second unrelated case, Keith Deshawn Stephens, 27, Keon Kervin Jackson, 26, and Duquam Orlander Mathis, 21, all of Houston, are charged with aiding and abetting bank robbery and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The criminal complaint alleges that on July 16, 2014, Mathis and Jackson entered the JP Morgan Chase Bank located at 6810 Fry Road in Katy and ordered customers and employees to the floor at gun point. They stole a large amount of U.S. currency, while one of them allegedly fired a shot into the bank's ceiling to make sure no one followed when they exited.
The third criminal complaint alleges Calvin Smith, 18, Rodney Ford, 18, Jamone Jones, 20, and Jerrol Bluford, 21, all of Houston, were part of a separate crew responsible for dozens of violent takeover robberies occurring in Harris County. According to the charges, on Jan. 25, 2015, Smith, Ford, Jones and Bluford entered the Metro PCS store at 834 Little York Road #B in Houston. Two of the men were allegedly armed with handguns. Employees of the store were ordered at gunpoint to open the safe and registers in the business and a small amount of U.S. currency was stolen.
The fourth case involves the violent robbery or attempted robbery of three commercial businesses in the North Houston area. Jerrieus Williams, 30, Alonzo Flowers, 22 , Kye Rue, 22, Andre Coleman, 23, and Paul McCoy Jr., 23, all of Houston, are the suspects. On Jan. 14, 2015, Flowers, Coleman and McCoy allegedly entered Jet Pawn located at 6135 F.M. 2920 in Spring. They were armed with handguns. One of the store employees was ordered at gunpoint to open the safe, from which cash and a firearm were taken. Additionally, 25 guns were stolen from cases on the sales floor.
These same defendants were also allegedly involved in the armed robbery of Cash America Pawn, located at 3211-B F.M. 1960 in Humble on Jan. 9, 2015. These defendants also allegedly attempted to rob the Mad Dog Smoke Shop at 966 West F.M. 1960 in Houston on Jan. 29, 2015.
In the five case, Keith Deshawn Stephens, 27, Zachary Loudd, 23, Jerrel James, 21, Andrew Holley, 22 and Crystal Lewis, 22, all of Houston, are charged with aiding and abetting bank robbery and aiding and abetting the use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of Violence. On June 27, 2014, three defendants entered the JP Morgan Chase Bank located at 4755 W. Panther Creek in The Woodlands. They ordered customers and employees to the floor at gunpoint and stole a large amount of U.S. currency.
Cracking down on these violent take-over style robberies, are daunting for local and federal law enforcement. But at the PCS cell phone store, the arrests did bring relief.
"Well yea," said assistant manager Mari Mendoza, "it keeps them from robbing again."
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