SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Five men were charged in a crime wave that “terrorized” the San Francisco Bay Area during holiday shopping season, prosecutors announced Monday.
Robbers armed with sledgehammers, construction hammers, and guns invaded jewelry stores in San Jose and San Francisco to carry out smash-and-grab style robberies, investigators said.
Prosecutors charged five men with felonies in connection to the crime wave: Michael Earl, 18, of Oakland; Andrew Manuel Maravilla Lopez, 19, of Hayward; Noah G Tekle, 19, of San Leandro; Charles Evans, 18, of San Leandro; and Maurice James Sweet, 19, of Pittsburg.
The brazen flash robberies were often caught on video and frightened holiday shoppers.
“These coordinated crimes scared people into thinking there was no law, no order,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “Make no mistake: there are both. Police and prosecutors all over the Bay Area are working together to arrest and prosecute the people responsible for these robberies.”
Earl, Maravillalopez, Tekle, and Evans were arraigned on April 15 with bail set at $250,000.
A sixth man, Maurice James Sweet, 19, of Pittsburg, is also facing charges and will be arraigned Monday afternoon at the Hall of Justice in San Jose.
Prosecutors believe the men were part of an organized group that used a similar modus operandi.
On October 29, 2021, the group hit J & Huss Custom Jewelry in Eastridge Mall, according to investigators. Three men entered the jewelry store and began smashing the glass display cases that contained jewelry, using hammers. The suspects took approximately $100,000 – $150,000 worth of jewelry.
The same jewelry store was hit by groups of smash-and-grab robbers three times between October and March.
On January 3, 2022, a large group invaded the Joyeria Martha at La Placita Tropicana shopping center in San Jose, an indoor market with several jewelry and clothing stores. About nine suspects entered the store and used yellow and black hammers to damage glass display cases containing jewelry. During the robbery, one of the suspects hit a female store employee on the head with a hammer, causing injury. The robbers fled the store with jewelry.
On November 5, 2021, two men hit CH Premier Jewelers in Valley Fair Mall. Men entered the store and attempted to break a display case using a black and yellow mallet. After unsuccessful attempts to break the glass, security responded and chased them away.
In each case, the group ran to awaiting vehicles to flee the area.
The charges were filed after the San Jose Police Department’s Robbery Unit concluded a long-term, multi-jurisdictional investigation involving a “prolific robbery crew,” police said.
“SJPD Robbery Unit detectives, with the assistance of other local jurisdictions, worked to identify and arrest six suspects who worked in concert between October 2021 to January 2022 to commit multiple smash-and-grab robberies in San José. Through collaboration, robbery detectives were made aware of similar cases with the same criminal pattern and suspect descriptions in several other cities and counties,” SJPD wrote.
On April 14, San Jose Police Department detectives served search warrants in several Bay Area cities and made six arrests.
Additional investigative assistance was provided by Daly City PD, Palo Alto PD, Merced PD, Roseville PD, Concord PD, San Mateo PD, Pittsburg PD, Antioch PD, and the United States Marshals Service.
Prosecutors said the investigation is still ongoing and more arrests are expected.