Police believe a group of thieves stole more than 100 cell phones in downtown Minneapolis in the past 10 months in a violent plan targeting victims’ financial apps, according to a warrant application and documents filed against some of the suspected perpetrators.
The plot often starts around the bar near a group member approaching a target and asking if he can add his rap label’s account to the person’s Instagram, according to documents filed in the district court in recent weeks. of Hennepin County have been filed. If the target hands over the phone, the suspects steal it and make purchases through the phone’s apps or transfer the owner’s money to their own accounts. If the target resists, a member of the group attacks the victim.
Hennepin County prosecutors have charged 18-year-old Kevron Detrell Williams Gray and 21-year-old Jamarcus Robert Tucker, both living in St. Paul, with first-degree theft and other crimes related to their alleged roles in the plan. Tucker was charged last week with theft and assault and is being jailed in lieu of a $300,000 bail. Gray was charged in late July and will receive a $250,000 jail term.
Both men are involved in the robbery in which the son of a former suburban police chief suffered serious head injuries last month, according to the indictment. Police say a group of six to eight strangers approached 24-year-old Jack Nadeau and his friend on July 24 in front of the Gay 90s nightclub near the bar. After Nadeau gave Gray his phone, Gray gave it to another member of the group. When Nadeau asked for it back, Gray said he didn’t have it, according to the charges and information detailed by police in the warrant application.
Surveillance video showed the two men arguing, and then another got in, pushed Nadeau and beat him, according to the indictment. Nadeau fell unconscious on the sidewalk.
“He has a traumatic brain injury,” his father Scott Nadeau said in an interview with the Star Tribune after the incident. “To have something like that happen over a phone and then know that this has happened to other people, it’s just — I don’t even have words for it. It’s just awful.”
Nadeau’s cell phone apps were used in 20 fraudulent transactions totaling $1,760, including to purchase Nike shoes on Amazon, which were shipped to Gray’s address, according to the indictment.
Two days later, according to the charges, Gray carried out the same plan on two more victims, punching one of them in the side of the face.
Surveillance footage shows Gray, Tucker and other suspects approaching a victim after 3 a.m. outside the Brass Rail Lounge, also downtown. The victim grabs one of the suspects by the arm. Tucker puts his arm around the victim’s chest, and then someone hit the victim. Tucker passed the phone on to a woman who was later identified as his girlfriend, according to the indictment.
Using the “Find My Phone” app, the victim’s father traced the phone to Chicago. He also found a request to Zelle, a cash app, to transfer $1,800 to Tucker, according to the indictment.
When police asked him about the Zelle transfer, Tucker suggested someone might have hacked his phone, according to the indictment: “People can use other people’s accounts, man. That’s nothing to be honest with you.”
In a separate interview, Tucker’s girlfriend confirmed that they were downtown that night, according to the indictment. She said Tucker is “always” downtown because he and his friends are always stealing phones” from people nearby.
In the past two years, Tucker has been convicted of charges of carrying a gun without a license in a public place, obstruction, felony threats of violence, two counts of reckless discharge of a firearm, fleeing from a police officer, and theft. The complaint also refers to a second-degree assault for Gray when he was a minor.
Crime returns with crowds in the center
The robberies are part of a trend of violent crime that is on the rise in downtown Minneapolis this summer as the area sees a return to some semblance of normalcy.
In the first two years of the pandemic, the center saw the number of murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults drop by about a third to the lowest number in a decade. Still lower than in 2019, violent crime in the Downtown West neighborhood is up 25% from last year, driven by an increase in robberies and aggravated assaults, according to police-tracked data.
Gunshot casualties in the First Precinct, which includes city neighborhoods, are up more than 60% this year compared to last year, the data shows.
Staff reporters Paul Walsh and Jeff Hargarten contributed to this report.