CHICAGO | A Gary man is among seven defendants charged in a two-state robbery ring of cellular phone stores, including an April heist at a LaPorte business, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Lavell Hughes, 41, of Gary, and six Illinois men are accused of conspiring with each other in the armed robbery scheme involving at least six cellphone stores in suburban Chicago, Indiana and downstate Illinois.
Hughes is charged in connection with an April 8 robbery of a Deerfield, Ill., T-Mobile store.
Cellphones, electronic tablets and other merchandise were targeted in the robberies. Suspects brandished handguns, according to a federal indictment released Friday.
Part of the conspiracy involved the Feb. 4, 2013, robbery of an AT&T cellphone store at 113 J St., LaPorte, in which cellphones were stolen from store employees at gunpoint, the indictment states.
Alleged ring leaders Eric Rogers, 39, of Hazel Crest, Ill., and Eric Curtis, 29, of Park Forest, Ill., selected and helped stake out stores targeted for robbery, recruited co-conspirators and provided them with firearms, and paid the co-conspirators to help commit the robberies, the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago said.
Rogers and Curtis also conspired with Rogers' cousin, Ryan Rogers, who was fatally shot during the March robbery of a Norridge, Ill., cellphone store when Ryan Rogers drove a vehicle toward a Chicago police officer, authorities said.
Also charged in the case are Marcus Harris, 20, and Daniel Wright, 28, both of Chicago, and Andre Wadlington-Anthony, 27, and Tony Johnson, 20, both of Harvey.
Hughes and three other defendants are charged in U.S. District Court Chicago, with one count each of robbery and brandishing a firearm.
Each count of robbery carries a possible penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine upon conviction. Each firearms count carries a mandatory minimum of seven years in prison and maximum sentence of life in prison upon conviction, the U.S. attorney announced.