BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg last week announced the indictment of three Brooklyn men in their 20s for a series of armed robberies at Manhattan smoke shops.
“As alleged, these defendants robbed several Manhattan smoke shops and threatened the lives of hardworking store clerks,” Bragg stated. “We will continue to stand up for the safety of our workers and will not allow smoke shops to become magnets for violent crime.”
According to court documents and statements made on the record, the defendants — all members of the Mac Baller Brims, a subset of the Bloods gang — committed four armed robberies between Dec. 29 and Jan. 13. The stores were in Chelsea, Union Square/Gramercy and Greenwich Village.
Michael David, 22, is charged with four counts of robbery in the first degree and three counts of robbery in the second degree. Jalen Robertson, 21, is charged with two counts of robbery in the first degree and two counts of robbery in the second degree. Derrick Fleming, 25, is charged with one count of robbery in the first degree and one count of robbery in the second degree.
Per the D.A., typically, David and one of the other defendants would enter a smoke shop, display a firearm and threaten a store clerk before stealing cash and merchandise, and flee in a getaway vehicle.
On Dec. 29, around 11 p.m., David robbed the Seventh Avenue Smoke Shop, at 200 Seventh Avenue, at W. 22nd Street. He went into the area behind the cash register, displayed a gun and took cash and merchandise.
On Jan. 7, around 4:45 p.m., David and Robertson entered Puffy’s Smoke Shop, at 177 Third Ave., at E. 17th Street. Robertson stood at the door as a lookout, while David went behind the cashier counter and threatened the clerk. The defendants stole merchandise and escaped in a getaway car.
On Jan. 11, around 1 p.m., David and Fleming entered Grab and Go Smoke Shop, at 378 Sixth Ave., between Waverly Place and Eighth Street. David acted as the lookout while Fleming displayed a firearm. They threatened to shoot the clerk, stole cash and merchandise, and fled in a getaway car. As The Village Sun reported, they reportedly made off with $1,800 in pot gummies and $600 in cash.
On Jan. 13, shortly after 8 p.m., David and Robertson entered 37 Convenience Store, at 37 Seventh Ave., at W. 13th Street. Robertson acted as a lookout, while David went behind the cashier counter and brandished a pistol. He demanded that the store clerk lie on the ground as he stole cash and merchandise.
Robbery in the first degree — which includes robbery with a weapon and use or show of force — is the most serious robbery charge. If convicted, sentences typically range from five to 25 years in jail.
The D.A. Office’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit is handling the prosecution of this case. Bragg thanked the detectives and supervisors of the New York Police Department’s Manhattan Robbery Squad, especially Detectives Joseph Gallagher, Inspector Nicholas Fiore and Chief of Detectives James Essig.
None of the robbed stores are licensed by New York State to sell cannabis, but are part of the city’s so-called “gray market” of an estimated 1,400 illegal pot shops that have sprung up since the legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana.
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