LOS ANGELES – Four men and one woman from Los Angeles County have been charged in federal criminal complaints alleging they committed nearly 200 thefts, robberies and fraudulent transactions targeting individual sellers of Apple Inc. merchandise who used online marketplaces, the Justice Department announced today.
Law enforcement on Tuesday arrested three defendants who were charged in a criminal complaint filed last week. The three are charged with Hobbs Act robbery – which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison – and are expected to make their initial appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles:
- Jamari Deon Turner, 21, of Lawndale;
- Jerome Joseph, 25, of South Los Angeles; and
- Tyler Russell, 22, of Lawndale.
Two other defendants – Kesai Doss, 23, of Palmdale, and Ellis Garrett, 22, of South Los Angeles – are in state custody. They are charged in a separate criminal complaint filed last week with wire fraud – a crime that also is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison – and are expected to appear in federal court in the coming weeks.
According to affidavits filed with the complaints, from February 2018 until at least June 2020, law enforcement identified nearly 200 incidents of theft, robbery and fraud targeting victims using online marketplaces such as Craiglist and Facebook Marketplace. Most of the incidents occurred in Inglewood, Paramount, Long Beach, and downtown Los Angeles.
Most of these crimes consisted of the defendants arranging a meeting place via an online marketplace to buy Apple products – phones, laptop computers or other electronic devices, the affidavit states. Once there, the defendants allegedly asked to inspect a device and the victims would take a photo of the defendants at that time. On other occasions, the defendants snatched the device from the victim and fled. The defendants allegedly frequently ran through apartment buildings to escape from victims, using accomplices to lock the victims out of the buildings by closing security gates.
If the victims pursued them, the defendants allegedly threatened, attacked or brandished a firearm to deter them. Many of the transactions have been linked through common phone numbers, email addresses or online accounts, according to the affidavit.
Doss and Garrett allegedly were the most prolific thieves of the individuals charged. Multiple victims allegedly identified Doss as the person who stole their electronic devices. Doss and Garrett’s phones allegedly 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.
Separately, Turner, Joseph, and Russell allegedly engaged in similar behavior and also sold their victims’ stolen electronic devices to a buyer.
For example, in June 2020, a victim met Turner, Joseph and Russell at the victim’s home to sell a MacBook computer he had been offered for sale on Craiglist, according to the affidavit. At the meeting, Joseph and Russell allegedly exited their vehicle, pointed a handgun at the victim, and stole the victim’s computer and iPhone. Less than one hour later, the trio sold the victim’s MacBook and iPhone to a buyer, the affidavit states.
In total, the affidavits identify approximately 196 incidents occurring between February 2018 and June 2020.
A criminal complaint contains allegations. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI, the Inglewood Police Department, and the Los Angeles Police Department are investigating this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Kevin J. Butler of the Violent and Organized Crime Section is prosecuting this case.