Twelve Charged with Racketeering in Downtown Minneapolis Phone Theft Ring
Twelve people have been charged for running a highly organized criminal enterprise that has operated a cell phone theft ring in downtown Minneapolis for over a year and victimized more than 40 people, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office announced Tuesday.
The charges have been brought as racketeering (RICO) crimes, which occurs when a person is associated with an enterprise and participates in a pattern of criminal activity. The individuals charged include:
- Aaron Johnson, age 25, of Saint Paul
- Sharlotte Green, age 21, of Saint Paul
- Charlie Pryor Jr., age 18, of Saint Paul
- Charlie Pryor Sr., age 41, of Saint Paul
- Lawrence Miles, age 22, of Bloomington
- Heiron Birts, age 26, of Minneapolis
- Alfonze Stuckey, age 23, of Saint Paul
- Sherrod Lamar, age 23, of Saint Paul
- Emarion White, age 18, of Saint Paul
- Antonio Green, age 19, of Saint Paul
- David Mullins, age 26, of Minneapolis
- Zhongshuang Su, a/k/a "Brandon Su," of Minneapolis
According to the complaint, from June 2021 through May 2022, these twelve individuals operated as an enterprise to systematically steal cell phones, fraudulently transfer funds from the victims' phones to individuals associated with the theft ring, and then sell the stolen cell phones locally and internationally.
The defendants often targeted intoxicated individuals in downtown Minneapolis at bar close. In some circumstances, the defendants would take phones from the victims by force or intimidation. At other times, the defendants would approach victims in a friendly manner and ask the them for their phone so that the defendant could add themselves to a social media platform. The defendant would make sure the victim unlocked their phone before handing the phone to another defendant in the illegal operation who would transfer money from the victim's accounts to the defendant's accounts using mobile payment services such as Venmo, Zelle, and Coinbase.
Through months of dedicated work by law enforcement, it was determined that the defendants would funnel phones to Mr. Su, nicknamed "the iPhone Man," who would sell the phones stolen through this scheme to people or institutions locally and in China. Nearly 50 shipments of phones were sent to Hong Kong, while another 30 shipments were sent to the address of a Minneapolis hotpot restaurant that employs Mr. Su.
As a part of their coordinated scheme, the thefts and robberies have resulted in losses estimated to be over $300,000:
- Actual cash: $159,797.33
- Cryptocurrency: $85,283.34
- Value of stolen phones (estimated): $25,267.00
- Attempted cash: $32,086.07
The complaint outlines 33 distinct incidents that were organized by the enterprise. The defendants are linked to each other in many ways:
- Multiple pairs of the defendants share an address.
- Two of the defendants are in a romantic relationship.
- Multiple pairs of defendants are related to one another, including two that are cousins and two that are a father and son.
If convicted, the defendants face multiple possible penalties: potential incarceration of up to 20 years, a maximum fine that is three times of the gross value gained during the operation; and court costs and investigation and prosecution costs.
The charges are brought following a groundbreaking and extensive joint investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The Complex Prosecution Unit of the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, which will be handling this case, has worked closely with law enforcement to bring the racketeering charges.