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Jewelry heist mastermind gets 31 years in prison

For much of the last 20 years, Palo Brown’s life has been behind bars — interrupted by the occasional bout of freedom.

Those interruptions are about to end, after a federal judge Friday sentenced the 34-year-old leader of a Chicago jewelry heist ring to 31 years in prison.

“The defendant’s crimes were outrageous,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo presented to the judge before sentencing. “They were violent. They were repeated. He organized a crew that threatened numerous people with guns, putting firearms in their faces. . . . He left numerous victims in his wake.”

Prosecutors said that Brown — who has at least eight prior convictions — was the leader of a crew that robbed two jewelry stores, one gas station and attempted to rob a third jewelry store, all in 2012.

In total, the robbers made off with about $320,000 in loose diamonds and jewelry from two stores — in East Albany Park and Edgewater.

“He was the mastermind of a multiweek campaign of armed violence,” prosecutors said in their report to the judge. “He and his crew traveled from store to store pointing loaded guns at people.”

Brown and a member of his crew were arrested shortly after they tried to carjack a woman following the Edgewater robbery.

Brown pleaded guilty in the case last year to one count of conspiracy to obstruct, delay and affect commerce by robbery; one count of using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, and one count of attempted carjacking.

Prosecutors noted that Brown has a long criminal history, dating back to 1996. In one case, prosecutors said, Brown tricked a victim into handing over $400,000, after claiming he was an FBI agent investigating armed robberies.

“Yet none of the defendant’s prior sentences did anything to deter the defendant from the offenses of conviction here,” prosecutors said in their report.