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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Elderly and Asians were the primary targets in elaborate scheme

By Staff Reports

 

LOS ANGELES (CNS)—Grand jury indictments against 31 alleged gang members facing 93 total felony counts—including home invasion robbery, elder abuse and torture—were unsealed Monday as two-thirds of the defendants pleaded not guilty to participating in a burglary ring targeting elderly and Asian victims.

Eight other cases against some of the defendants—including for allegedly burglarizing the homes of Los Angeles-area celebrities and athletes, including singer Rihanna, then-Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods—are superseded by the indictments.

A pretrial hearing is set for April 5 downtown.

Six separate indictments were issued with counts including criminal street gang conspiracy; home invasion robbery; first-degree residential burglary; first-degree residential robbery; first-degree burglary, person present; elder abuse; torture; and mayhem, according to the District Attorney's Office. Defendants are also facing gang and gun allegations.

The alleged abuse includes causing great bodily injury to at least two men, 72 and 76 years old, according to two of the six indictments. Some remain sealed because the defendants have not been arrested or arraigned.

Tyress Williams, 19, was initially arrested Sept. 28 by Los Angeles police and charged in connection with those celebrity break-ins, while three other people were released from jail after prosecutors asked Los Angeles police to conduct further investigation.

Police said Williams was picked up after a traffic stop in South Los Angeles revealed a firearm and items believed to have been taken from burglarized homes.

Detectives originally thought the burglaries targeting actors, producers, musicians and professional athletes were set up at random but later discovered the homes were selected based on social media posting and tour and travel schedules.

The burglaries followed a pattern called "flocking," whereby suspects flock to celebrities' neighborhoods, dressing in nice clothes and driving luxury vehicles to avoid suspicion as they search for targets. They would then change into casual clothing, including hoodies, and use a larger vehicle to haul away stolen items.

One suspect would typically knock or ring a doorbell to check if anyone was home before breaking into a residence, according to police.

The indictments reveal that rappers A$AP Rocky and Chief Keef were also burglarized.

While the alleged crimes against celebrity victims were designed to take place when no one was at home, prosecutors said the ring sometimes attacked other victims.

Prosecutors allege the burglary ring worked from October 2017 through December 2018 and hit 69 victims at residential properties from Santa Monica and Beverly Hills to communities in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

The majority of cases targeted elderly and Asian residents, according to the District Attorney's Office.