ATF stops gang's alleged plan to rob drug dealers

Posted: July 19, 2012

AFTER WEEKS of planning, eight Philadelphia men arrived at a parking lot near Philadelphia International Airport on Wednesday morning to go over last-minute details of a plan to rob a stash house of 10 kilograms of cocaine, authorities said.

Several of the men boasted they had guns, and the alleged leader passed out rubber gloves. Then, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives swooped in and put the kibosh on their plans.

Authorities said the men, all from Philadelphia and ages 21 to 34, had targeted drug dealers for home-invasion robberies since May. The feds cracked the case with the help of a confidential informant who had been charged in May with distribution of crack, court papers said.

An arrest affidavit said that on June 11, the informant called defendant Robert Whitfield and asked him to help him get in touch with "Person No. 1," who the informant knew robbed drug dealers.

The informant told Whitfield on June 19 that he had a friend who knew where they could steal a large amount of cocaine, the arrest affidavit said.

When the informant said he wanted Person No. 1 to handle the robbery, Whitfield allegedly said: "Let me do it. I can knock it out, son. ... I do everything, man. ... It don't matter if he in or not, but I'm going in and getting that s---."

The arrest affidavit said that a week later, on June 27, the informant, Whitfield and another man, Person No. 2, discussed a stash house where at least 10 kilograms of cocaine could be stolen. Whitfield allegedly planned details of the robbery, including the use of a bullet-resistant vest, police jackets, plastic zip ties and making the victims lay on the ground, and allegedly mentioned several successful home invasions that he and his accomplices previously committed.

Whitfield and Person No. 2 met Wednesday morning with seven other men to go over final details of robbing the stash house, authorities said. They traveled in a five-car caravan to a house near 61st Street and Passyunk Avenue to pick up a van to use in the robbery about 9 a.m., officials said. That's when ATF agents swooped in.

Also charged were Najee Murray, Kenneth Parnell, Marlon Graham, Lafayette Rawls, Jamie Dales, Kareem Long and Frank Thompson. All were charged with attempted Hobbs Act robbery and related offenses. Parnell also was charged with attempted possession of 10 kilos of coke. If convicted, each defendant faces a mandatory-minimum five years in federal prison.

Contact Michael Hinkelman at 215-854-2656 or hinkelm@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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