Man charged for series of robberies at cellphone stores

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – One of six men accused of perpetrating a series of takeover robberies targeting mobile phone stores in the Inland Empire and Orange County pleaded not guilty today to armed robbery and other offenses.

Anthony Wimbley, 27, of Irvine, was named in a five-count federal indictment, along with relatives Robert Wimbley, 26, of Pomona; and Darron Wimbley, 28, of Fontana; and friends Aaron Tremmell Hardrick, 32, of Fort Worth, Texas; Djovonte Lewis, 22, of Pomona; and Edward Eugene Robinson, 48, of Long Beach.

The indictment, unsealed Tuesday, alleges two robbery counts, as well as two charges of interfering with interstate commerce and one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce.

Anthony Wimbley was arraigned at the U.S. District Court in downtown Riverside, after which he posted an $80,000 bond and was released from custody.

Robert and Darron Wimbley entered not guilty pleas during a joint court appearance Tuesday. They’re each being held without bail at a federal detention facility in San Bernardino.

Lewis is being held by a regional law enforcement agency for unrelated offenses, while Hardrick and Robinson are awaiting extradition from Texas, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors allege that between March 18 and Sept. 8 of this year, the defendants held up cell phone stores in Beaumont, Chino, Fullerton, Long Beach and Victorville, stealing $191,053 worth of merchandise and $2,434 in cash.

The men allegedly used the same technique in each holdup, according to the FBI.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office cited an Aug. 19 robbery at a Sprint store in Victorville as an example. Prosecutors said three of the defendants allegedly burst into the business wearing masks, with one of the bandits brandishing a handgun and barking orders at employees.

One worker was zip-tied and forced to lay on the floor while the store was ransacked, prosecutors said.

Investigators said the defendants specifically sought mobile phones without tracking devices, presumably to sell on the black market.

Along with the FBI, the Beaumont Police Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and other regional law enforcement agencies assisted in the investigation.