By Gina Martinez
A Brooklyn man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for being the ringleader in 11 cellphone store robberies that included locations in Flushing and Howard Beach, prosecutors said.
Members of a crew — known as “16” — led by Arthur Sam robbed 11 cellphone stores in Brooklyn and Queens between April 15, 2015, and December 8, 2015, according to the U.S Attorneys office for the Eastern District of New York.
Prosecutors allege that the crew would restrain and threaten store employees and customers by pretending to have a firearm or brandishing an imitation firearm and then flee on foot or to a waiting vehicle.
Prosecutors said one occasion resulted in a high-speed chase and a car crash. The crew attempted to rob a Verizon store located in Flushing at 191-30 Northern Blvd. in June 2015. A car chase ensued, followed by a crash that led to two arrests and five injuries, police said. The crew was also responsible for a robbery at a Howard Beach AT&T, located at 157-14 Cross Bay Blvd. in Dec. 2015.
Prosecutors said Sam used teenage minors to commit these robberies while he watched nearby from inside his BMW sedan. During the commission of some of the robberies, Sam maintained telephone contact with the participants so he could monitor what was occurring inside the store, prosecutors said.
Sam and his co-conspirators stole cell phones and other merchandise with a total value of more than $300,000 from the stores, according to prosecutors.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill thanked NYPD officers and its partners who worked to make the arrests and secure the guilty pleas.
“The defendant in this case recruited teenage accomplices and committed about a dozen robberies in Brooklyn and Queens in 2015,” O’Neill said. “Numerous victims were made to fear for their lives as the cellphone stores where they worked were held up by these perpetrators, who simulated firearms or displayed imitation pistols.”
Sam’s sentence included a term of three years of supervised release and $304,179 in restitution. Four members of Sam’s crew who pleaded guilty have not yet been sentenced.
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