Twelve people, most from St. Paul, have been charged in Hennepin County with racketeering in what authorities call a highly organized criminal enterprise that conducted cellphone thefts resulting in losses to victims estimated to be over $300,000.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced the felony charges on Tuesday and said the defendants often targeted intoxicated individuals in downtown Minneapolis at bar close.
Charged via arrest warrants with felony racketeering are: Aaron Johnson, 25; Sharlotte Green, 21; Charlie Pryor Jr., 18; Charlie Pryor Sr., 41; Alfonze Stuckey, 23; Sherrod Lamar, 23; Emarion White, 18; Antonio Green, 19, all of St. Paul; and David Mullins, 26, Heiron Birts, 26, Zhongshuang Su, a/k/a “Brandon Su,” of Minneapolis; and Lawrence Miles, 22, of Bloomington.
Freeman explained in a press release that the charges have been brought as racketeering crimes, which occur when a person is associated with an enterprise and participates in a pattern of criminal activity. Freeman said the cellphone theft ring operated in downtown Minneapolis for over a year and victimized more than 40 people.
According to the complaint, from June 2021 through May 2022, these twelve individuals operated as an enterprise to systematically steal cellphones, fraudulently transfer funds from the victims’ phones to individuals associated with the theft ring, and then sell the stolen cellphones locally and internationally.
In some circumstances, the defendants would take phones from the victims by force or intimidation. At other times, the defendants would approach victims in a friendly manner and ask them for their phone so that the defendant could add themselves to a social media platform. The defendant would make sure the victim unlocked their phone before handing the phone to another defendant in the illegal operation who would transfer money from the victim’s accounts to the defendant’s accounts using mobile payment services such as Venmo, Zelle, and Coinbase.
Freeman said that through months of dedicated work by law enforcement, it was determined that the defendants would funnel phones to Mr. Su, nicknamed “the iPhone Man,” who would sell the phones stolen through this scheme to people or institutions locally and in China. Nearly 50 shipments of phones were sent to Hong Kong, while another 30 shipments were sent to the address of a Minneapolis hotpot restaurant that employs Mr. Su.
Freeman detailed that the thefts and robberies have resulted in losses estimated to be over $300,000, including:
Actual cash: $159,797.33
Value of stolen phones (estimated): $25,267.00
Attempted cash: $32,086.07
The complaint outlines 33 distinct incidents that were organized by the enterprise. The defendants are linked to each other in many ways:
Multiple pairs of the defendants share an address.
Two of the defendants are in a romantic relationship.
Multiple pairs of defendants are related to one another, including two who are cousins and two who are a father and son.
If convicted, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison plus fines and court costs.
One cellphone theft case made headlines in July when the son of a former suburban police chief was assaulted and seriously injured outside a downtown bar during a cellphone robbery. Kevron Detrell Williams Gray, 19, of St. Paul and Jamarcus Robert Tucker, 21, of Minneapolis were subsequently charged in that case. They do not appear to be included in the racketeering case, but both remain in custody.
None of the parties in the racketeering case appeared to be in custody as of late Tuesday.
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