For Immediate Release
Inland Empire Man Sentenced to 5 Years in Federal Prison for Two-Month ‘Smash-and-Grab’ Robbery Spree Targeting Cellphone Stores
LOS ANGELES – A San Bernardino County man was sentenced today to 60 months in federal prison for committing 52 smash-and-grab robberies of T-Mobile and AT&T cellphone stores throughout Southern California during a two-month crime spree, using hammers to smash display cases to steal iPhones and other merchandise.
Tony Tyron Lee Stewart, 22, of Highland, was sentenced by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt, who also ordered him to pay $333,122 in restitution.
Stewart, the lead defendant in this case, pleaded guilty on June 9 to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.
On January 15, 2022, Stewart and two co-conspirators – Rayford Newsome, 21, of Compton; and Jerome Gregory Belser, 21, of San Bernardino – robbed T-Mobile stores in Long Beach, Carson, Inglewood, Encino, and Camarillo.
Stewart and his co-conspirators entered the stores during store hours, carrying hammers with employees and customers present. Once inside the stores, the defendants, wearing ski masks, used the hammers to smash security display cases, threaten employees and customers, and then stole cellphones, watches, and other electronic devices. They then fled the store and made their escape in a car.
After the Camarillo robbery on January 15, the trio – with Newsome driving – fled from police officers when law enforcement attempted a lawful traffic stop. Stewart and his co-conspirators led police on a vehicle pursuit through a residential neighborhood in North Hollywood before Newsome stopped the car.
In addition to these robberies, from November 11, 2021 to January 13, 2022, Stewart and other members of the conspiracy committed smash-and-grab robberies at cellphone stores in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Kern counties.
Specifically, the stores robbed were located in South Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Marina del Rey, Hermosa Beach, East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, Pico-Union, Hollywood, Koreatown, Silver Lake, Valley Village, Reseda, Sherman Oaks, Canoga Park, Woodland Hills, Agoura Hills, Mission Hills, San Fernando, Burbank, Pasadena, Alhambra, Monterey Park, Azusa, La Crescenta, South El Monte, Duarte, Monrovia, La Cañada Flintridge, Covina, Hacienda Heights, Lancaster, Norwalk, Downey, Bell Gardens, Cerritos, Bellflower, Rowland Heights, La Habra, Simi Valley, Camarillo, and Tehachapi.
The robberies – several of which occurred on the same date – resulted in a loss of approximately $293,444. In addition, the robberies caused approximately $46,376 in damage to the stores.
Both Newsome and Belser have pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery in this case. On September 9, Judge Kronstadt sentenced Belser to 70 months in federal prison. Newsome’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 5, 2023, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
“Stewart and his co-defendants terrorized cell phone stores throughout Southern California, traumatizing employees and customers in over 50 different stores in just over two months – all for [Stewart’s] own personal gain,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “In almost each of these…robberies, there were between two and four employees present along with multiple customers. Each employee is forced to return to these work locations, provide customer service, and attempt to earn a living a while dealing with the fear and anxiety that they may again be robbed or threatened with a dangerous weapon while at work.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Los Angeles Police Department investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin B. Reidy and Kevin J. Butler of the Violent and Organized Crime Section prosecuted this case.