Four charged in Beachwood, mail robberies in Shaker Heights | Local News




A federal grand jury returned a nine-count indictment charging four Greater Cleveland men in a conspiracy to steal, sell and buy 13 high-end vehicles and to rob U.S. Postal Service carriers and steal mail , resulting in an estimated total loss of $2.7 million.

Jaylen Harris, aka Bread Winner, 18, of Beachwood; Lavelle Jones, aka Fredo, 18, of Warrensville Heights; Devin Rice, aka Dev, 20, of Cleveland; and Hakim Benjamin, aka Keem Sheitsty, 20, of Cleveland Heights have been charged with conspiracy.

Rice, Jones and Harris are charged with additional counts of possession of stolen mail. Rice is also accused of aiding and abetting the theft of a postal carrier and stealing keys belonging to the US Postal Service. Harris is charged with an additional count of unlawful possession of a machine gun.

From December 2021 through February 2022, the defendants are charged with stealing and receiving stolen high-end vehicles from Michigan auto dealerships and selling them in Ohio, according to a June 23 news release. The June 23 indictment says the defendants targeted the Dodge Durango, Dodge Ram TRX, Dodge Hellcat and Audi 8.

The case was investigated by the FBI, US Postal Inspection Service, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Cuyahoga County Criminal Investigators, Beachwood and the Shaker Heights Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorneys Kathryn G. Andrachik and Jason W. White.

The indictment orders the defendants to confiscate all property related to the proceeds of the sale of stolen cars and stolen mail as well as a Glock pistol modified into an automatic machine gun.

A 31-page affidavit filed by an FBI special agent on May 26 details the investigation, which involved the use of cellphone, internet and social media information. The indictment and press release came from the office of Michelle Baeppler, senior assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

If found guilty, the defendants could face prison sentences of decades and fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Several of the counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000: sale or receipt of stolen vehicles, illegal possession of a machine gun, complicity in the robbery of a mail carrier and theft of adopted keys through the mail.

Conspiracy to commit the sale or receipt of stolen vehicles and possession of stolen mail are each punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

All charges further carry a maximum of three years of supervised release and a special assessment of $100, similar to court costs.

Bedford attorney Christopher McNeal, who represents Harris, told CJN on June 27, “My client is innocent. He said he couldn’t say if his client was detained.

READ: Ministry of Justice press release

“I have no comment,” said Scott J. Friedman of Cleveland, who represents Jones.

He said his client was being held at the Northeastern Ohio Correctional Facility in Youngstown.

“I have no comment at this time,” Reminderville’s Christopher W. Roberson, who represents Hakim Benjamin, told CJN on June 27.

Benjamin, he said, was also being held at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center.

John J. Ricotta of Cleveland, Rice’s attorney, told the CJN in an email, “I haven’t received a discovery yet, so it’s hard to assess the case, but once I have it, I will issue a statement for your article. ”

Indictments have not been scheduled in the case.

Incidents detailed

The FBI agent spoke about a Jan. 31 incident on Stoer Road in Shaker Heights involving a robbery at gunpoint from a mail carrier.

As the carrier delivered the mail, a black Nissan Altima with heavily tinted windows pulled up near his USPS vehicle, the affidavit said.

“The man approached (the postman), pointed a gun at him and said, ‘Give me the key,'” the officer wrote in the affidavit. The postman “told the man the key was in the USPS vehicle and the man replied, ‘Just give me the key, don’t make me shoot you.'”

The FBI agent explained that the keys are sought by mail thieves and used to access collection boxes to steal mail.

Two Shaker Heights police officers saw a 2019 Nissan Altima matching the description of the theft on Lee Road near Chagrin Boulevard. They stopped the car on Rolliston Road and saw US Postal Service collection containers in the back seat.

They pulled over Rice, later determining that he pulled over in his own driveway.

Officers found a Postal Service key on Rice, but not the one reported stolen that day, according to the affidavit.

A search of the Nissan on February 1 revealed the key allegedly stolen from the Shaker Heights postman and “a significant amount of stolen mail”, including bank deposits, credit cards and debit cards, including one addressed to a California resident of University Heights “who was allegedly loaded with funds from unemployment claims.”

Police found checks in Rice’s bedroom as well as a US Postal Service mail container on the floor next to a printer, which was loaded with paper used to print the checks, according to the affidavit. They also found checks addressed to patients of Summa Physicians Inc.

Officers saw shoes, some worth more than $1,000, and a pair that matched a video showing the shoes a suspect was wearing during the Jan. 24 robbery of a U.S. Postal Service employee in Cleveland .

“The suspects will post on social media that they need people who hold accounts at specific financial institutions and are willing to authorize the suspects to route checks through those accounts,” the FBI agent wrote, adding that ‘they would change the recipient’s name. and amount” and deploy various methods such as “mobile deposit” to deposit the check in the bank using a cell phone or ATM. … Suspects will also use the bank routing number and account numbers to print additional checks in an attempt to deplete the victim’s account.

According to the affidavit, Rice admitted to stealing mail, altering checks or printing fraudulent checks.

“Rice said he would post on his Instagram account, identified by the username ‘DEVMONEYYYY’, which banks he needed others to have accounts to make deposits via ATM or mobile deposits” , according to the affidavit. “Rice had debit cards in his room which he admitted to using in the scheme.”

Officers analyzed Rice’s cell phone, including group chats and device location information.

Rice told police he used his Instagram account, DEVMONEYYY, to announce he had stolen checks to cash and to recruit others to help him, according to the affidavit.

Benjamin told the police he lived in the same house.

In Benjamin’s room, officers also found checks, money orders, cash and court documents.

Officers found an Instagram account called “FREDOFROM UTW_2” associated with Jones with “$RT FREDO” listed in the account description and showing images of expensive Dodge and Jeep vehicles.

Additionally, the affidavit notes that on this Instagram account, “there were videos and images of a man holding what appeared to be an automatic rifle and video of weapons inside a vehicle, including included a tan Glock handgun, an automatic weapon in the driver’s lap and two semi-automatic rifles in the front passenger’s lap and another assault rifle.

The Dodge and Jeep vehicles were identified as part of a “major theft ring” by the FBI, state and local police departments in September 2021, according to the affidavit. The vehicles sold for between $50,000 and $100,000, according to the affidavit. The method of theft relied on a Pro Pad, a device used to clone keys.

The affidavit says Harris was identified as a “stolen vehicle salesman” in November 2021.

“Harris often posts that vehicles are for sale on his ‘yfnbreadwinner’ Instagram account,” the affidavit reads. “Harris also often posts pictures of large sums of money.”

At the Harris residence in Cleveland in November 2021, the special agent saw two cars parked in Harris’ parking spots – one was a Jeep Trackhawk with a temporary tag and a paper-covered Vehicle Identification Number . Then in December, more cars were found outside his apartment at Vue Apartments in Beachwood.

“On December 15, 2021, while on patrol, the Beachwood Police Department observed a gray 2022 Dodge Durango … in the parking lot outside Vue Apartments,” the officer wrote. While the license plate was stolen in Warrensville Heights, the Durango was stolen in Auburn Hills, Michigan, on December 8, 2021, along with two other vehicles: blue and black, 2021 Dodge Durango SRTs and a red 2021 Dodge Hellcat . ”

Additionally, during a February 10 search of Harris’ apartment at the Vue, “several firearms, including a Ruger pistol with armor-piercing cartridges, and a Glock pistol, Dodge vehicle keys and paper check were found. been recovered,” according to the affidavit.

Officers received a search warrant that day for two rooms at the Cleveland Hilton hotel that Harris had rented. During their stay, police and FBI agents detained and questioned Harris and Jones as they left the hotel with three bags containing “weapons, fraudulent checks, computers used to write the fraudulent checks and keys to the stolen high-end vehicles,” as well as several cell phones, according to the affidavit.

“While executing the hotel room search warrants, a Glock pistol was also recovered from the hotel safe in room 3130,” according to the affidavit. The 9mm pistol had been modified with a plastic back plate to function as an automatic weapon. It was later tested and confirmed to be modified to fire as a machine gun or fully automatic weapon, according to the affidavit.

The case will be randomly assigned to a magistrate, according to a June 23 entry on the docket, which also reads, “If remanded, the case will be assigned to Magistrate Judge Amanda M. Knapp.”

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