San Francisco, California - Jaray Simmons, Nakia Jones, and Siddiq Abdullah pleaded guilty Tuesday to their respective roles in a scheme to conduct home invasion robberies in California to obtain marijuana for resale on the East Coast, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. The guilty pleas were accepted by the Honorable Edward M. Chen, U.S. District Judge.
According to the guilty pleas, Simmons, 29, of Winston-Salem, N.C., Jones, 23, of Richmond, Va., and Abdullah, 22 , of Richmond, Va., were three of eight codefendants who agreed to target houses in northern California they believed contained bulk quantities of marijuana and the cash proceeds of marijuana sales. The eight codefendants agreed to conduct armed home invasion robberies of the targeted homes and to distribute for a profit on the East Coast the marijuana they were able to steal.
In March of 2018, Simmons traveled by car with three codefendants from Winston-Salem to California to carry out the plan. When the four codefendants reached Sacramento, they obtained multiple weapons and one of the codefendants purchased supplies including jackets, duffel bags, scissors, a vacuum sealer, and vacuum bags. The codefendants purchased these items to package for shipment the marijuana stolen during the home invasion robberies. Meanwhile, Jones, Abdullah, and an additional two co-defendants traveled from Richmond to Washington, D.C., and then from Washington by plane to San Francisco. After arriving in Northern California, the codefendants obtained a supply of firearms and ammunition.
All eight defendants met in Novato, Calif., on March 12, 2019, and traveled in two cars from Novato to a residential street in Petaluma. The plea agreements provide the following facts regarding the events of the evening:
A codefendant kicked open the front door of the residence and six of the coconspirators entered. The residence was occupied by a man and a woman who were forced inside the bathroom and bound with duct tape. At least one codefendant threatened to kill the victims if they did not cooperate, at least one codefendant pointed a firearm at the victims to threaten them into providing the location of marijuana and money, and at least one codefendant struck the male victim inside the bathroom in an effort to get him to disclose the location of marijuana and money. The victims explained they did not have any marijuana and that the defendants were in the wrong house.
Six of the defendants walked to a nearby second house. The group separated into two smaller groups and broke into the second house through both the front door and a side door. A codefendant grabbed a telephone from a woman occupant and threw it on the floor. At least one codefendant questioned the female victim about the location of marijuana and money. The woman was dragged by the hair and locked inside a closet. The woman said there was no marijuana in the house but that she had money in a drawer.
Two codefendants who were outside the second house encountered a neighbor. They brought the neighbor into the second house, pointed a gun at the victim, tied him with an electrical extension cord, and repeatedly struck him while asking where the marijuana and money was located. The male victim repeated that the defendants were in the wrong house.
The defendants heard the police approaching and left the houses. The defendants attempted to escape in the two vehicles in which they arrived. The police gave chase. Eventually, all the codefendants were apprehended, some as they abandoned their vehicle, others when they arrived at San Francisco International Airport later in the afternoon of March 12, 2018, and one defendant several days later.
On April 26, 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Simmons, Jones, and Abdullah and the other five defendants charging all with conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; two counts of attempted robbery affecting interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) and 2; and possession or use of a firearm during and in relation to and in furtherance of a crime of violence and a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i) and 2. Simmons, Jones, and Abdullah all pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, and use or possession of a firearm.
Judge Chen scheduled Jones’s sentencing hearing for July 31, 2019, Simmons’s sentencing hearing for August 7, 2019, and Abdullah’s sentencing hearing for August 14, 2019. The maximum statutory penalties for conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum statutory penalties for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana is 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum statutory penalties for use or possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence is life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Additional fines, forfeitures, and restitution also may be ordered; however, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christiaan Highsmith is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Lance Libatique. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, and the Santa Rosa Police Department.