Two men involved in a string of 14 Orange County robberies were sentenced to two-decade prison terms Thursday.
Jonathan Emory Cephus, 36, and Melvin Dale Collins, 33, pleaded guilty in February to multiple robbery, false imprisonment and assault with a semiautomatic firearm counts. The two accepted a plea deal from Orange County Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino.
Both men had prior strike convictions, so admitting to multiple felonies as part of the plea deal left them vulnerable to facing minimum 25-year-to- life sentences if they are convicted again of a serious or violent felony, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon.
Cephus was sentenced to 29 years and four months in prison and Collins was sentenced to 24 years, according to Zimmon.
Co-defendant Jennifer Graham — the getaway driver on the pair’s last heist, which led to their arrests — pleaded guilty March 2, 2015, and was sentenced to three years in prison, Zimmon said.
A sharp-eyed security guard who saw the two suspects dump a shirt and a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap after one caper provided a key clue that led investigators to begin surveillance on Collins, Zimmon said.
That surveillance allowed police to catch Cephus, Collins and Graham red- handed in their last heist at the Make a Deal pawnshop at 1300 S. Magnolia Ave., on Sept. 20, 2013.
In the Make a Deal robbery a pawn shop clerk was pistol-whipped and an Anaheim police officer hurt his ankle in a crash while en route to the scene, police said.
The string of robberies began on July 5, 2013, when Cephus held up a Little Caesars in Fullerton, Zimmon said.
On July 22, Cephus pistol-whipped a man as he robbed a Del Tao restaurant in Anaheim, Zimmon said. Also that day, Cephus robbed an El Pollo Loco restaurant in Buena Park.
On July 26, an armed Cephus robbed a Jack in the Box in Anaheim, Zimmon said.
On Aug. 28, Cephus again robbed a Jack in the Box in Anaheim, Zimmon said.
On Sept. 2, 2013, four robberies took place. The first was at 7 a.m. at a Burger King in Buena Park, but Collins scurried out of the restaurant without any loot when a clerk informed there were many video surveillance cameras in the store, Zimmon said.
Collins then robbed a Subway store next that day in Orange. Cephus robbed a Subway store in Garden Grove on Sept. 2, 2013, and then Collins robbed a Delta Liquor Store in Huntington Beach on the same day, Zimmon said.
On Sept. 4, Collins robbed a Chevron in Placentia, Zimmon said.
On Sept. 13, Cephus, who was armed, and Collins robbed HB Smoke Shop in Huntington Beach, Zimmon said.
On Sept. 17, 2013, Cephus and a woman who has yet to be identified robbed Tobacco Buzz in Brea, Zimmon said.
Some victims in the robberies were pepper-sprayed and zip-tied, Zimmon said.
— City News Service
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