Three men whose arrests in Oakland last summer allegedly led to the unmasking of a scheme to steal diamonds from Craigslist advertisers are facing federal charges of conspiracy to commit robbery and attempted robbery. Keegan Cotton, Jaedon Evans and Rafael Davis were arrested by Oakland police on June 20 as they allegedly attempted to ambush a limousine carrying a Colorado woman who had flown to the Bay Area to sell a diamond she had offered on the Craigslist classified ad website.
Last week, they were charged in a federal criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Oakland with the two counts of conspiracy and attempted robbery. Evans was arrested today and will make an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Kandis Westmore in Oakland on Thursday, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Lili ArauzHaase. Davis was arrested earlier this week, is in custody for the time being and was assigned a defense attorney by Westmore during a court appearance today.
Cotton is currently in San Mateo County jail, according to papers filed by federal prosecutors, who are seeking to have him transferred for an appearance before Westmore on Feb. 18. The three Oakland arrests and a subsequent investigation of cellphone records led to the discovery of a gang that allegedly stole cut diamonds, diamond and emerald rings and gold Rolex watches by luring at least 18 victims from around the country to the Bay area to sell the jewelry, according to an FBI affidavit.
FBI agent Paul Healy filed the affidavit in federal court in Sacramento on Jan. 28 as part of an application for a warrant to search the Tracy home of a fourth defendant, Michael Martin. Martin was arrested during the search on Jan. 29 and has been charged in U.S. District Court in Sacramento with being an ex-felon in illegal possession of a gun found in his house that day. Martin is not currently charged in connection with the alleged Craigslist scheme, but Healy’s affidavit alleges he was a leader of the gang.
“Martin is believed to be part of a robbery crew operating in Oakland, California, and elsewhere,” wrote Healy, who said the purpose of the search was to look for evidence of a crime of interference with interstate commerce by threats or violence. Healy alleged in the affidavit that typically, a member of the crew posing a jewelry buyer would contact a Craigslist advertiser and offer a plane ticket for the person to come to the Bay Area to sell the item.
The seller would be met by a limousine, often paid for with a stolen credit card, and taken to a location where the robbery would occur. Some of the information in the affidavit was provided by an unidentified prison inmate who was linked to the scheme by data he had on a contraband cellphone, including searches for Craigslist ads and text messages to alleged co-conspirators, Healy wrote.
The inmate agreed in December to become a confidential informer, Healy said. The affidavit outlines 18 robberies that the prisoner allegedly told Healy that he and various combinations of members of a crew of about eight people orchestrated. Victims were from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana and Wisconsin, the affidavit said. Cotton, Evans and Davis were spotted in June during the alleged ambush at 37th Street and Martin Luther King Way in Oakland by undercover police officers working on an unrelated case, according to a second affidavit filed by Healy with the criminal complaint against the trio.
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