Nearly all of a suspected burglary crew arrested after an extensive investigation by Sheriff’s Department detectives received sentences from plea deals recently, while the last suspect faces the potential of life in prison when he begins trial Tuesday.
The Major Crimes Bureau-Burglary/Robbery Task Force, working with Santa Barbara Police officers, arrested seven suspects back in April, in connection with two commercial burglaries in the city of Santa Barbara.
“This organized group of burglars is suspected in several dozen Southern California burglaries,” said Sgt. Michael Maher of the Burglary/Robbery Task Force, “including a few which occurred in the SCV — The Habit, El Trocadero Steak House and others.”
The suspects were charged with two counts of burglary and the Criminal Street Terrorism Act, which is considered a street gang enhancement law, calling for a mandatory prison sentence in addition to sentences levied for other crimes committed. This is because the suspects were accused of being part of an L.A.-area street gang, according to investigators.
Isiah Thomas, 21; Willard Casey, 20; Christian Sisson, 19; and Justin Johnson, 27, pleaded guilty to two counts of commercial burglary and the Criminal Street Terrorism Act, and are facing five years in state prison at their sentencing, according to Sheriff’s Department officials.
Kevin Hawkins, 25, pleaded guilty to two counts of commercial burglary, two counts of felony vandalism and the Criminal Street Terrorism Act, according to information from Sheriff’s Department officials who investigated the crime. He’s facing a much lengthier prison sentence at his next hearing, officials said.
The underage suspect pleaded guilty in Santa Barbara Juvenile Court to two counts of commercial burglary and the Criminal Street Terrorism Act. He was sentenced to probation in juvenile court.
Craig Jones, 27, is set to begin trial Dec 29 in a Santa Barbara County courtroom. Jones has two prior strike convictions for robbery, and is facing a maximum of 50-75 years in prison if he’s found guilty of his alleged crimes, according to Maher.
The alleged crimes
At the time of the suspects’ arrest, Maher described the trend as burglars smashing the glass of restaurants in the dead of night and stealing what they can.
The suspected burglary crew hit two Santa Clarita restaurants in the early morning hours of March 16.
The first place they hit was The Habit Burger Grill restaurant on McBean Parkway, at Arroyo Park Drive, inside Granary Square, at 3:50 a.m., Maher said.
An hour later, he said, the same crew hit the El Trocadero Steak House restaurant on Main Street, at Market Street, in Newhall.
The LASD Major Crimes Bureau’s Burglary-Robbery Task Force worked closely with detectives from the Santa Clarita Valley station to identify their suspects.
“At that location, we had a witness who believed they saw a silver SUV leaving the area,” Maher said around the time of the arrests, noting a vehicle matching the same description matched the one seen at the restaurant burglary in Santa Barbara. “We’re confident these (suspects) are responsible for several restaurant burglaries, probably dozens and dozens,” he added.
Two and half hours after the robbery at El Trocadero, the same crew hit The Habit restaurant on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood.
Evidence gathered during the investigation of those crimes helped alert the detectives to the burglary crew, which then became a subject of their investigation.
The arrests were made in the early hours of a Sunday morning in April, when investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Major Crimes Bureau Burglary-Robbery Task Forces nabbed seven suspects following two commercial burglaries they were observed committing in the city of Santa Barbara, detectives said.
With the help of the Santa Barbara Police Department, two vehicles were stopped in the early morning hours on the 101 Freeway, south of Carpinteria, where all seven suspects were detained without incident, according to an LASD social media report posted around the time of the arrests.
Investigators recovered burglary tools including crowbar, gloves, headlamps, bolt cutters and cash stolen from the locations inside the suspect’s vehicles, the report read.