Bail was denied Thursday for an Inglewood parolee charged with helping to plan a series of smash-and-grab robberies targeting millions of dollars worth of Rolex and other high-end Swiss watches at retail stores across Southern California.
A federal magistrate judge in Los Angeles ruled that 28-year-old Justin Marques “J-Stone” Henning must remain behind bars pending trial.
At the conclusion of a brief detention hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Frederick F. Mumm found that Henning was a flight risk and there was “no condition or combination of conditions” to ensure he would appear for future court appearances if set free.
A 13-count indictment handed down June 8 by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana charges Henning and eight others with conspiring to interfere with commerce by robbery and related charges.
Allegedly led by Darrell Cedric “D” Dent, 39, of Inglewood, the group targeted jewelry stores in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties that were known for carrying high-end watches — including those made by Rolex, Audemar Piguet and TAG Heuer. Jewelry, including engagement rings, also were stolen.
In all, 10 robberies that occurred between August 2015 and April of this year were connected to the group, prosecutors said.
According to the indictment, young men who were financially desperate were promised large sums of money to carry out the robberies. They were provided with firearms, ski masks, gloves, hammers or sledgehammers, backpacks, construction uniforms for disguises, dark clothing and stolen vehicles for getaways.
Henning was involved with planning how the heists would be conducted and helped assign roles to recruits, the indictment alleges.
In one robbery, two men wearing ski masks stormed into Rolex Boutique Geary’s in the Westfield Century City mall on Aug. 24, 2015, fired one round to intimidate a security guard, then used hammers to smash glass displays. They stole 40 Rolex watches, worth roughly $1.63 million.
The most recent robbery was April 24 at Ben Bridge Jewelers in Santa Monica. The robbers got away with about $69,700 in valuables in that heist, prosecutors said.
At Thursday’s hearing, defense attorney Melissa Weinberger argued that despite an extensive criminal record, Henning did not appear to have played a “major role” in the conspiracy.
She said the last time her client was cited for failure to appear in court was six years ago, and since then has faced only “minor” state charges.
“He will appear in court,” she told Mumm.
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Chemerinsky pointed out that Henning’s prior convictions included charges of carrying a loaded firearm in public, stalking and inflicting corporal injury on a spouse.
Any form of non-custodial pretrial supervision, the prosecutor argued, would be “simply insufficient.”
The judge agreed, mentioning that Henning is not only alleged to have helped recruit and pay co-conspirators, he was “on probation at the time of the activity alleged.”
A trial date in the case has not yet been set.
—City News Service