LOS ANGELES – Three Southern California men were charged today in a federal grand jury indictment for allegedly robbing six cell phone stores in Los Angeles and Ventura counties during store hours on the same day, using hammers to smash display cases to steal iPhones and other merchandise.
The indictment charges each of the following defendants with one count of conspiracy and six counts of interference with commerce by robbery (Hobbs Act):
- Tony Tyron Lee Stewart, 21, of Highland;
- Rayford Newsome, 23, of Compton; and
- Jerome Gregory Belser, 20, of San Bernardino.
The defendants are in federal custody and their arraignments are scheduled for February 10 in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
According to the indictment, on January 15, 2022, Newsome drove Stewart and Belser in a blue Kia Optima vehicle to rob T-Mobile stores in Long Beach, Carson, Inglewood, Encino and Camarillo, and an AT&T Wireless store in Woodland Hills. Stewart and Belser allegedly entered the stores during store hours to commit the robberies while Newsome remained in the car.
Once inside the stores, Stewart and Belser – in the presence of store employees and customers – allegedly used hammers to smash display cases and phone displays to steal telephones and other electronics. After stealing the merchandise, Newsome drove Stewart and Belser away from the robbery locations, the indictment alleges.
Law enforcement received reports of similar robberies that same day at cell phone stores. During the evening of the robberies, GPS location data for Stewart’s and Newsome’s phones and the blue Kia Optima showed that the two phones and the car were in the vicinity of the robberies around the time they occurred, according to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint in this case.
That same evening, law enforcement used the tracker on the blue Kia Optima to track down the car in North Hollywood. After a short pursuit, the defendants were found in the blue Kia Optima, the affidavit states. Inside the car, officers recovered the devices reported stolen during the Encino robbery as well as hammers that had the same distinctive handle coloring as those used during that robbery.
The total loss from the six charged robberies was $33,795, according to the indictment.
Law enforcement has linked Stewart, Newsome, and Belser to more than 50 cell phone store robberies throughout Southern California, according to the affidavit filed with the criminal complaint.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If convicted of all charges, each defendant would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each count.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Los Angeles Police Department investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin Reidy and Kevin Butler of the Violent and Organized Crime Section are prosecuting this case.