By City News Service
Two South Bay men and one Harbor-area woman appeared in Los Angeles federal court to face charges for allegedly committing 10 armed robberies of Southland chain pharmacy stores, including one in Burbank, over a six-week span.
The defendants are also accused of allegedly assaulting and injuring customers and employees while robbing the establishments.
The defendants are charged with Hobbs Act robbery — which is robbery affecting interstate commerce — and using and carrying a firearm in a crime of violence, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
The trio — each 22 years old —are expected to make their initial appearances Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles federal court. Two of the defendants are from Hawthorne and the third is from Carson.
According to court documents, the defendants allegedly committed 10 armed robberies between Aug. 9 and Sept. 19 at Rite Aid and Walgreens stores in Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Monterey Park, Long Beach, Bellflower, South Los Angeles, Whittier and Lakewood.
Federal prosecutors said one of the defendants served as the driver while the other two would rob the stores, usually about one hour before closing. They allegedly used handguns and would steal victims’ cell phones, then go into the stores’ offices and take money from safes, prosecutors said.
During one such heists, one of the suspects allegedly robbed a Walgreens store employee by putting a gun in her back and demanding she take him to the store’s safe, while using the barrel of the gun to push her to get her to move faster, prosecutors said. When they reached the back of the store, the employee managed to lock herself inside an office and call 911 while the robber was distracted, according to prosecutors.
In total, during the heist, the robbers stole about $776 from the Walgreens cash registers, along with four iPhones belonging to victims. The suspects fled in a white Honda Civic, which investigators determined had been booked through a car-sharing company, and allegedly was driven by Mouton.
Using phone records and GPS data, investigators tracked the defendants down and arrested them on Sept. 26. At the time of their arrests, two of them allegedly possessed handguns consistent with those used in the Walgreens robbery. Investigators also found clothing — including a black mask with a red logo — consistent with what one of the suspects wore during the robbery, prosecutors said.
The defendants were initially in state custody but were transferred to federal custody Tuesday.
If convicted as charged, each defendant would face up to 20 years in federal prison for the Hobbs Act robbery count and up to life in federal prison for the firearm count, prosecutors said.
First published in the October 28 print issue of the Burbank Leader.