Leader of Robbery Crew that Staged String of Jewelry Store Heists that Netted $6 Million Sentenced to 55 Years in Federal Prison
SANTA ANA, California – The leader of a ring that staged a series of daytime smash-and-grab robberies at Southern California jewelry stores that netted the thieves $6 million worth of Rolex and other high-end watches was sentenced today to 55 years in federal prison.
Keith Marvel Walton, 47, of South Los Angeles, a senior member of the Inglewood Family Gangster Bloods criminal street gang who organized the armed robberies, was sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney.
During today’s sentencing hearing, Judge Carney said the robberies – which were “planned, organized and led” by Walton, and were carried out during the daytime in public shopping malls – “terrified people and traumatized them for the rest of their lives.”
Walton, who is also known by the monikers “Green Eyes” and “Fly Guy,” “is likely the most dangerous, prolific, and incorrigible criminal who has ever appeared before the Court for sentencing,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court.
Walton was one of five men convicted following a five-week trial last summer in United States District Court (guilty verdicts against the fifth defendant were overturned by the court in a matter currently being appealed by prosecutors). The jury convicted Walton of conspiring to violate the Hobbs Act by planning the jewelry store robberies, as well as participating in three of the robberies, two of which involved firearms. Walton committed these offenses soon after pleading guilty in federal court to being a convicted felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. Walton’s extensive criminal record, according to court documents, also includes a 1995 federal conviction for participating in a Hobbs Act robbery of Texas drug store and using a firearm in that robbery.
“Walton is dangerous, violent, and manipulative,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “He knows little else but crime and violence.”
Prosecutors have secured convictions against a total of 19 defendants who were involved in at least one of the smash-and-grab robberies.
Last week, one of those defendants – Stanley Ford, 49, of Lancaster – was sentenced to 25 years in prison for participating in five of the robberies.
Members of the conspiracy selected jewelry stores based on their inventory of expensive watches, including those manufactured by Rolex, Audemar Piguet and TAG Heuer. Walton and other organizers in the scheme recruited financially desperate young men to perform the robberies, often by promising large sums of money if they were successful. The organizers planned the details of the robberies, including selecting the display cases to be smashed and providing the firearms, tools, disguises and stolen cars that were used in the robberies.
The conspiracy was responsible for 14 robberies or attempted robberies between early August 2014 and April 2016. One heist at a store in the Century City mall netted more than $1.6 million in watches and involved one of the robbers firing a shot from a rifle at a security guard who was trying to secure the store. Members of the conspiracy stole watches and other jewelry that was cumulatively worth approximately $6 million.
The other three trial defendants pending sentencing are:
Robert Wesley Johnson, 29, of Inglewood – who recruited robbers, scouted the jewelry stores leading up to the robberies, and supplied firearms, hammers, backpacks and other tools to the robbers who went into the jewelry stores – is scheduled to be sentenced on September 7;
Evan Scott, 29, of Compton, who was a gunman in two of the robberies, and pepper sprayed an employee in a third robbery and is expected to be sentenced later this year; and
Jameson Laforest, 26, of Inglewood, who received watches stolen during robberies in Hollywood and Torrance and smashed glass cases during a robbery in Manhattan Beach and is scheduled to be sentenced on August 20.
The evidence at trial showed that the defendants participated in at least one of the following eight robberies:
the August 3, 2014 robbery of Prestige Jewelers in Manhattan Beach, during which 19 Rolex watches with an approximate retail value of $92,000 were stolen;
the August 24, 2015 armed robbery of Rolex Boutique Geary’s in the Century City Mall, during which 40 Rolex watches with an approximate retail value of $1.63 million were stolen;
the October 21, 2015 armed robbery of Frederic H. Rubel Jewelers in the Shops at Mission Viejo, during which 40 Rolex watches and David Yurman jewelry with an approximate retail value of $595,000 were stolen;
the January 22, 2016 armed robbery of Manya Jewelry in Woodland Hills, during which three Rolex watches and other assorted watches and jewelry with an approximately retail value of $108,888 were stolen;
the February 7, 2016 robbery of Ben Bridge Jewelers in the Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks, during which 35 Rolex watches with an approximate retail value of $298,000 were stolen;
the February 17, 2016 armed robbery of Westime in West Hollywood, during which 15 Audemars Piguet watches with an approximately retail value of $576,200 were stolen;
the February 29, 2016 armed robbery of Ben Bridge Jewelers in the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, during which 30 Rolex watches with an approximate retail value of $456,325 were stolen;
the March 22, 2016 robbery of Westime in Malibu, during which 66 Audemars Piguet, Breitling, Franck Muller, Omega and Hublot watches with an approximate retail value of $1.42 million were stolen; and
the April 24, 2016 robbery of Ben Bridge Jewelers in Santa Monica, during which 24 Tag Heuer watches with an approximate retail value of $67,500 were stolen.
The investigation into the robbery ring was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The prosecutors handing this matter are Assistant United States Attorneys Scott D. Tenley of the Santa Ana Branch Office, Jeffrey M. Chemerinsky of the Violent and Organized Crime Section, and Julia L. Reese of the Criminal Appeals Section.