Feds: Borgata smash-and-grab part of high-end robbery spree

A surveillance still from the smash-and-grab at Martin Jewelers in Cranford, N.J.

Officials have charged four people in connection with a multi-state smash-and-grab robbery ring that allegedly targeted high-end jewelry stores, including one inside the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

Allen Williams, 35, Roberto Grant, 33, Terrell Ratliff, 22, and Tyrone Dehoyos, 35, are accused of plotting the sophisticated heists of four stores located in New York, Virginia and New Jersey.

Investigators said, in each instance, the suspects would first case the stores to identify their layouts and the location of high-end merchandise, typically luxury watches. They would allegedly commit the robberies during business hours, when customers and employees were inside.

In each case, according to authorities, the suspects smashed display cases with hammers and grabbed merchandise, entering and exiting the store within minutes and fleeing into waiting getaway cars.

The group allegedly stole more than $1 million in merchandise during a 7-month spree that stretched from July 1 through Jan. 30.

The first incident happened July 1 at the Bernie Robbins store inside the Borgata Hotel and Casino. Three robbers entered through a fire stairwell, smashed display cases and fled with about $200,000 worth of high-end watches.

The suspects allegedly struck again Aug. 31 at Schwarzchild Jewelers in Richmond, Va. This time, four people went inside while one stood out front, acting as a lookout. One of the suspects allegedly shocked a female store employee with a handheld stun gun. Investigators said the suspects fled with more than $100,000 in watches.

The next heist occurred just nine days later at Martin Jewelers in Cranford, N.J. Three robbers entered the store, used a hammer to smash a display case and fled with about $36,000 worth of luxury watches.

This time, a police officer on patrol nearby saw one of the suspects, later allegedly identified as Dehoyos, fleeing the store through the front door. Dehoyos was arrested after a brief foot chase. The other two suspects escaped through a rear door.

The group allegedly committed the final heist Jan. 30 at a Cartier store in Manhattan. Five robbers used hammers to smash a display case and snatched about $700,000 worth of watches before fleeing the scene.

Police the same day stopped Williams’ car in Brooklyn and arrested Williams and Grant. Both men were wearing Cartier watches similar to those that had been stolen, court documents allege.

“From Cartier on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue to the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, the defendants left no rock unturned, carrying out a series of brazen midday smash-and-grab robberies of high-end jewelers up and down the East Coast,” FBI assistant director-in-charge George Venizelos said in a statement. “It took sophisticated, modern crime fighting techniques to tie the heists together.”

The suspects are charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit robbery in interstate commerce. Williams and Grant are also charged with four counts each of robbery, while Ratliff is charged with one count of robbery in connection with the Atlantic City crime and Dehoyo is charged with one count of robbery in connection with the heist in Cranford.

Each robbery count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or awigglesworth@philly.com. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.