Port Arthur Man Sentenced for Armed Robbery Spree
BEAUMONT, Texas – A 38-year-old Port Arthur, Texas man has been sentenced to federal prison for his role in a crime spree targeting area businesses in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.
Marcus Darnell Lee pleaded guilty on May 23, 2011, to charges of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery and possession of a firearm during a during a crime of violence and was sentenced to 288 months in federal prison today by U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone.
According to information presented in court, the crime spree began on Aug. 26, 2010, when Lee, Donte Ramone Burton, Howard James White, and others, conspired and committed a series of armed robberies of local businesses in Port Arthur and the surrounding area. During the commission of each robbery, the group took money and other items of value from these businesses by entering each business and directing the employees at gunpoint to surrender the business proceeds. In furtherance of the conspiracy, the group brandished firearms, used actual and threatened force, and violence, in order to compel the employees to surrender the property. Approximately 11 businesses were robbed in furtherance of the conspiracy, including, but not limited to: Gulfway Food Mart, Troy’s convenience store, Pakco #3 convenience store, Speedy Mart, Sunrise Grocery, and Amuny’s Liquor store. Lee participated in at least 10 of these robberies. At least one firearm was brandished during, and in furtherance of, the commission of every robbery. All of the businesses that were victims of the crime ring were engaged in interstate commerce. Further, the armed robbery of each business obstructed, delayed, and affected each business’ ability to operate in interstate commerce. Specifically, several businesses invested money to enhance the security features of their store, others closed at an earlier hour, and most saw a decline in business overall. The amount of business proceeds taken throughout the course of the conspiracy was in excess of $20,000. Lee’s role in the conspiracy was to collect money from the cash registers and other areas during each robbery and would then distribute the proceeds after the robbery. Prior to initiating each robbery, the group determined who would fill each role in the robbery. Once the robbery was complete, the group would allocate the proceeds between the participants.
Howard White pleaded guilty on June 14, 2011 to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and is currently awaiting sentencing.
Donte Ramone Burton is awaiting trial.
The case is being prosecuted as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative. Project Safe Neighborhoods is aimed at reducing gun and gang violence, deterring illegal possession of guns, ammunition and body armor, and improving the safety of residents in the Eastern District of Texas. Participants in the initiative include community members and organizations as well as federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
This case is being investigated by the Port Arthur Police Department, FBI, and ATF, and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Baylor Wortham.