Man, 27, pleads guilty in jewelry store theft

He faces trial in different robbery

January 05, 2007|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

A 27-year-old Baltimore man who robbed a Bel Air jewelry store and was caught after pawning the stolen items pleaded guilty yesterday in Harford County Circuit Court to one count of theft over $500.

Corey Reuben Cooper was arrested in December 2005 for his involvement in the crime. Police were able to identify his alleged accomplice, Brian O'Neal Hodge, when a Baltimore police officer admitted taking some of the nearly $1 million in loot from the robbery of two stores when he pulled Hodge over during a traffic stop.

Also stolen was a silver paten and chalice that a Forest Hill priest had brought to the jewelry store for refurbishing. The items were later recovered in time for the 25th anniversary of the priest's ordination.

Under his plea agreement, Cooper will be sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but 10 years suspended.

Cooper and Hodge, 40, were charged with robbing two suburban jewelry stores - one in Bel Air and one in Timonium - under the ruse that Hodge was looking for an engagement ring for his fiancee, according to documents.

Hodge is accused of forcing the owner at gunpoint into a back room during a Nov. 14, 2005, robbery at J&M Jewelers in Bel Air and binding him and a FedEx deliveryman with wire. Cooper then entered the store to help recover $800,000 worth of jewelry, authorities say.

Hodge's trial in that case, which was to begin yesterday, was postponed. He already had received a 25-year sentence without parole after pleading guilty in Baltimore County Circuit Court to one count of armed robbery in the Timonium incident.

The city police officer, David A. Williamson, whose wife tried to pawn the stolen jewels, resigned from the department last January and will not face criminal charges after agreeing to testify against the men.

Cooper had been charged with armed robbery, false imprisonment, two counts of theft and two counts of first-degree assault in the Bel Air crime. He also faces trial Thursday in Baltimore County on charges stemming from the Timonium robbery.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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