Feds: Leader of ring that robbed cell phone stores convicted

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A south suburban man who led a crew of armed robbers that targeted at least six cell phone stores in the suburbs, northwest Indiana and downstate, has been convicted, according to federal prosecutors.

Eric Curtis, 31, of Park Forest recruited a group of at least seven men to rob stores at gunpoint, stealing “hundreds of cell phones while terrorizing store employees and customers,” a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Evidence showed the gang “conducted takeover-style robberies. Crew members would enter a store, brandish firearms and order employees and customers to the back of the store. The robbers would take as many cell phones as they could stuff into their duffel bags,” prosecutors said.

Curtis would then help sell the phones and divide the profits, according to prosecutors.

Robberies occurred between January and December 2013 at stores in Addison, Norridge, Deerfield and Woodridge.

After a trial lasting nearly two weeks in U.S. District Court in Chicago, a jury on Thursday convicted Curtis of one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, three counts of robbery, one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and three counts of using a firearm in a crime of violence, according to prosecutors.

He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 57 years in a prison and a maximum of life when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras on Aug. 4.

Seven other members of Curtis’ crew previously pleaded guilty and await sentencing, including Eric Rogers, 41, of Hazel Crest, considered another leader of the ring. He admitted in a plea agreement that the crew also robbed stores in Joliet and downstate East Peoria, as well as LaPorte, Ind., prosecutors said.

Rogers and Curtis were arrested in December 2013 after the Woodridge robbery, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Chicago residents Marcus Harris, 22; and Daniel Wright, 30, confessed to taking part in the robberies, as did Lavell Hughes, 43, of Gary, Ind.; Tony Johnson, 22, of Harvey; and Andre Wadlington-Anthony, 29, also of Harvey, prosecutors said.

Ryan Rogers, cousin of Eric Rogers, also took part in some of the robberies, but was shot and killed by Chicago Police after the March 19 robbery in Norridge, when he accelerated his vehicle toward an officer, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

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