LOS ANGELES—Five Los Angeles County residents have been charged with allegedly committing nearly 200 thefts, robberies, and fraudulent transactions targeting people who sell Apple Inc. merchandise online, federal prosecutors announced on Aug. 30.
Three of the defendants were arrested on Aug. 29 and charged with Hobbs Act robbery, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Jamari Deon Turner, 21, of Lawndale, Jerome Joseph, 25, of South Los Angeles, and Tyler Russell, 22, of Lawndale were expected to make their initial appearances Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles federal court.
Two other defendants—Kesai Doss, 23, of Palmdale, and Ellis Garrett, 22, of South Los Angeles—are in state custody on unrelated matters. They were charged in a separate criminal complaint with wire fraud, a crime also punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, and are expected to appear in court in the coming weeks.
Prosecutors allege that from February 2018 through at least June 2020, there were nearly 200 incidents of theft, robbery. and fraud targeting victims using forums such as Craiglist and Facebook Marketplace. Most of the alleged crimes occurred in Inglewood, Paramount, Long Beach, and downtown Los Angeles, according to the Department of Justice.
In most of the cases, the defendants arranged a meeting place via an online marketplace to buy Apple products such as phones, laptop computers, or other devices, according to a court affidavit. At the meetings, the defendants would snatch the device and flee, often running through apartment buildings to escape and using accomplices to lock the victims out of the buildings by closing security gates, according to court papers.
The defendants also allegedly threatened, attacked or brandished a firearm to deter victims who attempted to chase the assailants. Many of the various cases were linked through common phone numbers, email addresses or online accounts, according to the affidavit.
Mr. Doss and Mr. Garrett allegedly were the most prolific thieves of those charged. Multiple victims allegedly identified Mr. Doss as the person who stole their electronic devices. Mr. Doss and Mr. Garrett’s phones were used to arrange fraudulent meetings, their online marketplace accounts were used to set up the frauds, and they sold the stolen goods to a buyer, federal prosecutors allege.
Mr. Turner, Mr. Joseph, and Mr. Russell allegedly engaged in similar behavior and would sell stolen electronic devices to a buyer, the DOJ said.