A 21-year-old Moreno Valley man who headed a crew that robbed more than a dozen AutoZone stores throughout the Inland Empire pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges.
Daeon Raishawn Cox admitted one count each of conspiracy, interference of commerce by robbery and brandishing a firearm to commit a crime of violence under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors dropped 10 related charges in exchange for Cox’s admissions.
U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal scheduled a sentencing hearing for Cox on Oct. 7 at the federal courthouse in downtown Riverside.
The defendant is being held without bail at a federal detention facility in San Bernardino.
His co-defendant, 25-year-old Dashon Raymond White, earlier this month pleaded guilty to identical charges. He’s also being held without bail and is slated for sentencing on Sept. 23.
A third defendant, 19-year-old Jada Shardae Allen, is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 8 on two counts of conspiracy and one count of brandishing a firearm in a crime of violence. She is free on a $40,000 bond.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the robbery series occurred last year between Sept. 5 and Dec. 13, with holdups occurring in Fontana, Hemet, Moreno Valley, Redlands, Riverside and unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County.
Prosecutors said the crew would scout AutoZone stores to rob, then carry out the holdups at a later time.
In documents submitted as part of Cox’s plea agreement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office cited a robbery in Redlands as an example of the operation.
Prosecutors said White cased the store, identifying where the safe was located, then returned hours later with Cox, who used an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to rob the outlet, forcing the clerk to empty the safe of $1,500 cash.
Multiple law enforcement units combined efforts to develop strategies for catching the bandits, and in early December, Fontana police detectives put an AutoZone under surveillance, believing the crew would target the location. According to prosecutors, on Dec. 12, the defendants attempted to rob the store, culminating in a pursuit, during which the trio crashed their vehicle and attempted unsuccessfully to flee on foot.
Cox and White are each facing a potential maximum 27 years behind bars for their offenses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.