Three plead guilty in failed Petaluma pot robbery scheme
Three of eight suspects have pleaded guilty to their roles in a series of home invasions last year that terrorized a Petaluma neighborhood and that law enforcement officials described as a failed scheme to steal California marijuana to resell on the East Coast.
The would-be robbers ended up threatening, tying up and beating some of the people they encountered at two homes but found no pot, officials said.
The intrusions came five weeks after a similar botched pair of home invasions involving a different, yet connected group of suspects from the East Coast. Those suspects, still awaiting trial in Sonoma County, also demanded marijuana or cash from residents who had none, and in one invasion the suspects shot and killed a Santa Rosa-area resident in his home.
Authorities have said the suspects in both cases share connections, but officials have declined to elaborate. One suspect was from Santa Rosa, five were from Richmond, Virginia, three came from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the remaining two were residents of Mississippi and New York.
The cases reflect the high- dollar black-market value of California marijuana in states where it’s still banned.
In the Petaluma case, Jaray Simmons, 29, of Winston-Salem and Nakia Jones, 23, and Siddiq Abdullah, 22, both of Richmond, were among a group that “agreed to target houses in Northern California they believed contained bulk quantities of marijuana and the cash proceeds of marijuana sales,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Tuesday announcing the guilty pleas.
Federal prosecutors didn’t identify who directed the operation, noting that Simmons, Jones and Abdullah and their co-defendants agreed with an unidentified person or people to participate in the crimes.
“The eight co-defendants agreed to conduct armed home-invasion robberies of the targeted homes and to distribute for a profit on the East Coast the marijuana they were able to steal,” prosecutors said.
Their co-defendants, whose federal cases are ongoing, include: Chrisshawn Beal, 21, Ledarrell Javon Crockett, 29, and Jade Lafay Johnson, 20, all of Winston-Salem; and Melvin Corbin, 20, and Romello Shamar Jones, 21, both of Richmond. Court records show most are scheduled to enter guilty pleas later this month.
The eight suspects traveled to California by car and by plane, ultimately convening March 12, 2018, in Novato. Members of the group had obtained weapons and “purchased supplies including jackets, duffel bags, scissors, a vacuum sealer and vacuum bags,” federal prosecutors said. They drove to Petaluma in two vehicles, parking at an antique shop on Bodega Avenue and kicking down a fence to get to the homes on Eugenia Drive.
At the first house, a suspect kicked open the front door and six others stormed inside, forcing a man and woman into a bathroom and binding them with duct tape, according to the plea agreement summarized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. At least one of the suspects threatened to kill the two residents if they didn’t cooperate, according to the summary.
The man was struck “in an effort to get him to disclose the location of marijuana and money,” the prosecutors’ summary stated. “The victims explained they did not have any marijuana and that the defendants were in the wrong house.”