Police probe phone thefts tied to sales arranged online

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published June 25, 2013

WARREN — A Warren woman faces an armed robbery charge for her alleged involvement in a spate of thefts in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties tied to smartphone sales arranged through Craigslist.

According to Warren Police Detective David Kriss, Jala Jhane Sanderfield, 18, was the alleged getaway driver identified by the victim of a robbery near 11 Mile Road and Hoover June 19. Police were called to the parking lot of Lacio’s Pizza, east of Hoover, at 5:30 p.m. after a 45-year-old Warren man said he was robbed of his iPhone.

“Basically, the guy agreed to sell this guy his iPhone and they were going to meet,” Detective Lt. Heidi Metz said. “When he gets there the guy says, ‘I’m in a hurry. Can you bring it out to the car? He takes it out to the car and the suspect asks if he can test the phone. He hands him the phone and the suspect puts it in his pocket. With his other hand, he pulls out a gun. He points it at the victim and says, ‘This is my phone now.’”

Kriss, the officer in charge of the case, said the phone number used to communicate with the victim in order to arrange the transaction-turned-robbery was also used in similar incidents in Canton and Troy. Information held in a law enforcement database linked the phone number to a suspect vehicle license plate provided by the victim of a robbery in Canton. Warren Police Special Operations Unit officers used that license plate to locate the suspect vehicle at an apartment on Dequindre in Warren.

Officers obtained a search warrant and found Sanderfield and two 18-year-old Detroit residents allegedly smoking marijuana in the vehicle about two hours after the robbery June 19.

Sanderfield was reportedly later identified in a photo lineup as the driver of the suspect vehicle. She was the only suspect charged with armed robbery, a felony punishable by up to life in prison.

All three suspects arrested in the car were charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

The victim was not able to identify the man who allegedly pointed the weapon at him during the robbery. Police said the suspect was identified as black, 18-20 years old, 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall with a thin build.

A search of the vehicle and the apartment on Dequindre recovered a gun case and several cellphones, but no handgun. The phones stolen in the incidents in Canton, Warren and Troy were not among those recovered, however.

“I think they’re pawning them, selling them immediately after they get them,” Metz said.

Police suggested anyone looking to complete a transaction arranged on the Internet to meet at a secure location, such as the lobby of the police station.

The investigation remained ongoing June 25 to determine if any of the suspects arrested June 19 would face additional charges in other jurisdictions.

Sanderfield requested a court-appointed attorney and remained in the Macomb County Jail on a $100,000 bond ahead of a preliminary examination scheduled for 8:45 a.m. July 2 before Judge Jennifer Faunce in the 37th District Court.