Highland man gets 5 years for 52 smash-and-grab cellphone store robberies

A Highland man was sentenced to five years in federal prison for his role in 52 smash-and-grab robberies at cellphone stores during a two-month rampage around Southern California.

Tony Tyron Lee Stewart, 22, pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, and was ordered to pay $333,122 in restitution.

On Jan. 15, 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, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The trio was accused of entering stores during business hours while wearing ski masks and using hammers to smash security display cases and steal cellphones, watches, and other electronic devices.

After the robbery at the Encino store, police attempted to stop a car driven by Newsome, who led authorities on a pursuit through North Hollywood. He eventually stopped the vehicle and the three surrendered.

The threesome was connected to similar robberies from November 2021 to January at cellphone stores in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Kern counties, prosecutors said.

The robberies – several on the same day – resulted in a loss of approximately $293,444, and caused about $46,376 in damage to the stores, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“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 wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Both Newsome and Belser have pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery in the case. Belser was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison in September; Newsome’s sentencing is scheduled for January 5, 2023.

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