Theft tied to gang, FBI says

February 06, 1994|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

The arrests of two Philadelphia men in Maryland after the smash-and-grab robbery of a White Marsh Mall jewelry store in September helped federal agents break up a Philadelphia-based gang accused in 25 similar robberies in several states, according to federal authorities.

Rolex watches, gold rings and diamonds worth $2.2 million were taken in those robberies last year, the Philadelphia office of the FBI said.

Six of the robberies occurred in Maryland, four of them in Baltimore County. Littman Jewelers in White Marsh Mall was robbed twice. Jewelry worth $140,000 was taken in the second robbery at the store. But that robbery also ended in the arrests of Wade Knight and Marvin Cordel Adams, after a chase by police through Harford and Cecil counties.

The Littman jewelry store in the Towson Town Center, Best Products Co. in the Towson Market Place and two jewelry stores in Montgomery County were each robbed once.

The indictments of Mr. Knight, Mr. Adams and 12 others, including two Philadelphia jewelry store owners, were announced Friday in Philadelphia. All are suspected of being part of the 46th Street Gang, so-called because its members gathered or lived in the vicinity of 46th Street and Fairmont Avenue in West Philadelphia.

The gang was accused of committing the robberies, allegedly on the instructions of the two store owners, identified in the federal indictment as Robert Cott, owner of Robert Cott Jewelers, and Alexander Khaytin, owner of Golden Fever Jewelry, both on Philadelphia's Jewelers Row.

The federal charges against the 14 include conspiracy to violate the Hobbs Act, which prohibits interference with interstate commerce, interference with interstate commerce by robbery, and receipt and transportation of stolen property.

Mr. Knight and Mr. Adams are being held in the Federal Correction Center in Fairton, N.J., pending a detention hearing Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania. They were transported from the Baltimore County Detention Center last Wednesday by federal marshals.

Mr. Knight and Mr. Adams had been held in Baltimore County on charges of robbery, armed robbery and auto theft after the White Marsh Mall robbery. Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor said yesterday she didn't know whether the state charges would be pursued, now that federal charges have been brought.

According to the federal indictment, Mr. Knight participated in .. most of the 25 robberies, which increased in frequency after the Feb. 16, 1993, robbery of a Bailey, Banks & Biddle jewelry store on Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda.

The indictment says Mr. Knight usually stole a vehicle, often a minivan, for transporting the robbers between Philadelphia and the robbery site.

Mr. Adams became involved during the July 30, 1993, smash-and-grab robbery of Littman Jewelers in the Towson Town Center, the indictment says.

Mr. Knight, 28, and Mr. Adams, 27, were arrested Sept. 28 after a chase that led Maryland State Police, Harford County Sheriff's deputies and Baltimore County Police north on Interstate 95, through Harford County and back onto I-95.

Two other men, one identified in the indictments as Keith Stephens, or "Farad," the other still unidentified, escaped on foot. Mr. Stephens was arrested in Pennsylvania.

The four men were charged with taking diamond rings worth about $140,000 from the Littman Jewelers in the White Marsh Mall.

Shortly after their arrest, Mr. Knight and Mr. Adams were questioned by FBI agents in connection with smash-and-grab robberies in Pennsylvania.

According to the indictment, after the 46th Street Gang completed its robberies, participants would return to Philadelphia and sell the items, usually to Mr. Cott or Mr. Khaytin.

For example, the indictment says that on July 30 Mr. Knight, Mr. Adams and two others robbed Littman Jewelers in the Towson Town Center of four Rolex watches valued at $29,000. That day, they allegedly sold three of them to Mr. Khaytin and one to a VTC fence for $7,500.

The indictment says members were so brazen that after several smash-and-grab robberies in South Central Pennsylvania, including one in York, Mr. Cott complained to the 46th Street Gang about the quality of the stolen jewelry he was receiving. Mr. Cott allegedly ordered gang members to return to Maryland, where, he said, the quality of the jewelry was better.

On April 14, four days after Mr. Cott's complaint, six members of the gang allegedly hit Littman Jewelers in White Marsh Mall for the first time, taking watches and jewelry valued at about $84,000, the indictment says.

Mr. Cott, 58, chose the stores to be robbed, set the dates and times and provided traveling money for the 46th Street Gang's smash-and-grab journeys, according to the indictment.

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