Spy gadget helps FBI crack alleged crowbar crew in Metro Detroit robbery spree – The Detroit News

Robert Snell
 
| The Detroit Information

Detroit — A monitoring system hidden inside a stolen pharmacy protected helped investigators hunt a prolific band of grasp thieves suspected in a string of robberies, in response to the FBI.

Federal court docket information unsealed Monday describe a singular investigation involving a band of uniformed thieves who wore matching grey hoodies with the phrase “Love” written on the again whereas they used crowbars, walkie-talkies and choreographed actions to steal greater than $64,000, capsules and safes from roughly seven space pharmacies and shops.

One alleged member of the group, Detroit resident Antwuan Deshon Holmes-Lewis, 24, was charged in an unsealed grievance Monday and held with out bond pending a detention listening to in federal court docket.

Holmes-Lewis was caught following a string of break-ins involving an skilled group of thieves, and investigators tracked his cellphone to the scenes of a number of robberies, in response to the FBI. He additionally was noticed at a ironmongery store shopping for distinctive burglar’s instruments later recovered by investigators.

“This group of suspects seem to have mastered breaking and getting into into these buildings in a minimal period of time to keep away from the police response to alarms,” an FBI particular agent wrote in an affidavit unsealed in federal court docket Monday.

The cost of breaking right into a pharmacy with intent to steal medication is punishable by as much as 20 years in federal jail. His lawyer, David Tholen, declined remark Monday.

The FBI’s Violent Crime Activity Drive began investigating a number of pharmacy and retailer robberies on Nov. 18 after a break-in at Parkway Meals on East Jefferson Avenue on the east facet of Detroit.

Investigators found doorways pressured open with what gave the impression to be a sledgehammer and located the pharmacy workplace in disarray with two safes left open and empty. Investigators additionally discovered a yellow crowbar.

The proprietor instructed investigators that about $4,000 was lacking and surveillance footage confirmed 9 suspects sporting the black-and-gray “Love” hoodies.

“Footage additionally confirmed the suspects roll a protected, roughly 6-ft tall with wheels, out of the pharmacy,” the agent wrote. The protected contained extra money, medication and paperwork.

One hour earlier and 11 miles away, St. Clair Shores police had been responding to a break-in at Walgreens at Little Mack and 10 Mile. Investigators discovered one other crowbar and indicators of doorways pried open.

Surveillance footage confirmed 9 individuals sporting the identical sort of clothes seen in the course of the Parkway Meals theft. The footage confirmed a car backing as much as the entrance of Walgreens, one individual prying open the door and a number of other others working to the pharmacy whereas one individual stayed close to the entry door and spoke right into a walkie-talkie.

Two robbers had been proven leaving the shop whereas carrying a protected earlier than everybody left in a darkish Dodge Durango and a darkish Dodge Charger. The theft lasted 4 minutes.

After the 2 break-ins, Harper Woods Police investigators referred to as safety guards on the Residence Depot situated between the 2 theft areas. They had been in search of surveillance footage of customers who had purchased crowbars in latest days.

Safety guards checked the bar code quantity on the crowbars left on the crime scene, reviewed latest purchases and performed surveillance footage of 1 shopper at 7:22 p.m. on Nov. 10 — eight days earlier than the dual break-ins.

The footage exhibits a tall and slim masked man ready in line to pay $32.80 for DeWalt and Estwing crowbars. The crowbars resembled those left on the two crime scenes, in response to the FBI.

The person paid money however investigators say he resembles Holmes-Lewis, in response to the agent’s affidavit.

FBI brokers allege Holmes-Lewis used two telephones, together with one he gave to a Detroit Police Officer following a March 1 site visitors accident. Brokers checked the officer’s physique digital camera and noticed Holmes-Lewis standing close to a 2015 Dodge Charger.

Within the physique digital camera footage, Holmes-Lewis is sporting a grey hooded sweatshirt with a white chest brand much like the model seen in the course of the pharmacy robberies.

Investigators quickly discovered a couple of key clue in a 3rd theft. Southfield Police responded to a break-in at a Sam’s Membership on Eight Mile in early January. 4 suspects had been seen on surveillance footage arriving in a Dodge Charger, utilizing crowbars and a sledgehammer to interrupt in and steal a protected bolted to the ground.

Inside that protected, pharmacy staff had positioned a tablet bottle containing a GPS system. The devices are routinely utilized by pharmacies to thwart robberies. Safety guards found the monitoring system was pinging close to a house on the 12500 block of Wade Road on the east facet of Detroit.

Particular operations officers descended on the block however discovered the tablet bottle in an empty lot subsequent door to the house. The following day, investigators reviewed the tablet bottle’s digital path and found the gadget spent about 10 minutes at a house on the 12300 block of Wade Road.

They searched a indifferent storage on the residence and located items of a damaged protected, a black face masks, a glove, an empty tablet bottle, a sledgehammer and a yellow DeWalt crowbar.

Investigators checked the Sam’s Membership surveillance video and noticed Holmes-Lewis purchasing on Jan. 6 — in the future earlier than the break-in, in response to the affidavit. The video confirmed him arriving with two others in his Cadillac Escalade and stroll to the pharmacy, the FBI agent wrote.

The trio lingered on the pharmacy and left with out shopping for something.

FBI activity pressure officers obtained cellphone information displaying the situation of Holmes-Lewis’ cellphone the day of the Sam’s Membership break-in. The cellphone used cell towers close to the Sam’s Membership across the time of the break-in and theft, the FBI agent wrote.

The cellphone additionally used towers close to the Southfield Freeway and Tireman Avenue on the identical time the GPS system hidden inside a tablet bottle was within the space, in response to the agent.

The Holmes-Lewis cellphone additionally used cell towers close to the 12300 block of Wade Road across the identical time that the GPS monitoring system was at a house on the block.

On Jan. 28, investigators raided the house on the 12300 block and seized greater than 900 prescription capsules packaged on the market. The capsules had been according to these stolen from the Sam’s Membership pharmacy, the agent wrote.

A suspect matching Holmes-Lewis’ bodily description is believed to have helped break-into a Livonia pharmacy and a Dick’s Sporting Items retailer close by in lower than a half-hour on Feb. 24, in response to the FBI agent.

Robbers broke into a 3rd retailer in lower than an hour, a Detroit market on the 11500 block of Dexter Avenue on town’s west facet. The suspects used a sledgehammer to interrupt into the market and shatter bullet-proof glass to entry an workplace.

Contained in the workplace, the suspects stole a protected containing as a lot as $60,000 value of cash orders, money and a nickel-plated handgun.

Investigators analyzed information for a second Holmes-Lewis cellphone and found it utilized cell towers close to the three Feb. 24 theft areas at roughly the identical time because the break-ins, in response to the FBI agent.

Not all the robberies yielded such profitable hauls.

His cellphone was close to a Spartan Meals retailer in Redford Township throughout a March 1 theft, in response to the FBI. 5 suspects arrived in a black Durango, broke in utilizing prybars and sledgehammers however had been unable to crack open the protected.

Telephone information confirmed one in every of Holmes-Lewis’ telephones used cell towers close to the shop on the time of the theft, the FBI agent wrote within the affidavit. The robbers failed to interrupt into the shop’s ATM however did not depart empty-handed.

“The suspects had been seen throwing liquor bottles right into a basket,” the agent wrote, “and filling their pockets with liquor bottles.”

Holmes-Lewis is the second accused member of the crew charged in reference to space pharmacy robberies. Antione Hamilton was charged final yr with housebreaking involving managed substances and financial institution theft — felonies punishable by as much as 20 years in federal jail.

In that case, Hamilton and others drove a stolen automotive into the PharMor Pharmacy on Woodward in Midtown throughout an early-morning theft final April, in response to a plea deal filed in federal court docket. They stole hydrocodone and different prescription capsules throughout a theft that price the shop roughly $35,000.

And in June, Hamilton and two others used a crowbar to interrupt into Residents Financial institution within the 12500 block of Gratiot Avenue in Detroit. They fled with greater than $1,400, in response to the deal.

Hamilton, who additionally was linked to a Might pharmacy theft that netted $100,000 value of HIV drugs, is awaiting an April 20 sentencing.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews 

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